A flatline budget for alcohol and drug services is impacting on the ability to address the health problem in the south-west region.The Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre (WRAD) is concerned that while reforms are happening in the sector, funding is failing to adequately support the growing gaps in the region.

“If you look at health funding formulas, the alcohol and drug sector has flatlined over the past eight years,” WRAD Director Geoff Soma said. “While other health sectors have increased, the funding for the alcohol and other drugs field has remained comparatively low,” Mr Soma said.

The latest figures from the Victorian Coroners Court indicate that 367 individuals died due to acute drug toxicity in 2012 – more than one person per day. Medically prescribed pharmaceuticals now account for more deaths than the road toll (304 and 282 respectively).

Mr Soma said WRAD was continuing to address the needs of hundreds of alcohol and drug clients across the region “but so much more could be done with more suitable funding levels. The Victorian Government’s recent strategy Reducing the Alcohol and Drug Toll provides long awaited recognition of these issues, yet there has been little action or direct investment to reduce the toll”, he said.

Mr Soma added that the 2013/14 Victorian Budget offered a small relief to the problem.

“WRAD supports the client-centred reforms being taken by the government for the alcohol and other drug field which will bring a streamlining of services, focus on family and links to other support programs,” he said. “However, there has to be a well-supported framework and significant investment of funding to build that new system and to support agencies. We must be adequately resourced to navigate the significant complexities arising from sector reform and the recommissioning process.”

Mr Soma said the government needed to recognise the traditional low base of funding for the alcohol and other drug field. “The government needs to understand that the system requires a significant funding investment to catch up and to meet community demand.”

Mr Soma said there were some one-off funding announcements to address issues such as methamphetamine use but a stronger budget base was needed to address growing demand and waiting times, increasing client complexity and for support for agencies through the recommissioning process.