Chair Helen Taylor, Director Geoff Soma, Board member Glenys Phillpot and Dr Lynda Berends.

A residential rehabilitation centre is needed in south-west Victoria to help people with complex alcohol and other drug problems who require an extensive treatment intervention.

People needing this type of service must go to Melbourne or beyond and even then find it hard to secure a place due to waiting lists.

Service development consultant Dr Lynda Berends has been employed by the Western Regional Alcohol and Drug Centre (WRAD) to investigate gaps in local services.

Dr Berends told WRAD’s annual general meeting on November 21 that evidence collated so far suggests a local residential rehabilitation service is needed.

Victoria has a number of residential rehabilitation services but they are in high demand with long waiting lists. There is no publically funded residential rehabilitation service in the Great South Coast region.

Dr Berends said people needing this type of support had to go to Melbourne or further.

“While it is difficult for all clients to get a place in residential rehabilitation, one could argue that it’s more difficult for those from this area,” she said.

“The distance to services is compounded by the shortage of places. You could certainly mount an argument for a local service.”

Dr Berends said that removal from a person’s traditional environment was sometimes required, however reintegration following treatment can be challenging is
Dr Berends joined WRAD in July to look at treatment service gaps in the Great South Coast and education and training needs regarding alcohol and other drug problems. Lynda’s role will continue until June 2017.

The next phase of Dr Berends’ research on service gaps will look at referral pathways and the obstacles local people are facing in accessing existing residential services.

Dr Berends said residential rehabilitation was the most intensive treatment type. It involves extended stays, from 60 days and up to more than a year, in a dedicated facility that offers therapeutic, vocational and recreational interventions.

“This form of treatment is quite intense. It is not for everyone, but can be very helpful when people with serious and long-standing problems haven’t been able to address those problems in other treatment types” she said.

“Residential rehabilitation is one part of an evidence-based system of care that offers a range of treatment options.”

Dr Berends said that the number and needs of clients in the region justifies having a local centre. Further research is needed into the feasibility of establishing a local service and how its establishment and running costs would be funded. Dr Berends is also interested in clarifying where barriers emerge when clients are referred to statewide services.

“There are long waiting lists and evidence that only very few people from this region are getting into residential rehabilitation and we need to know what the blockages are.

“The evidence so far suggests we need a local service.”

WRAD director Geoff Soma said Dr Berends had been employed to investigate strategies to address the lack of access to residential rehabilitation for local people.

“WRAD has been aware for some time that there is a gap in residential rehabilitation for people with alcohol and other drug problems,” he said.

“We believe there is a need for this option as part of a continuum of service delivery that includes prevention, intervention, outpatient and inpatient services as well as pharmacotherapy.”

Mr Soma said WRAD plans to discuss the issue with the Department of Health and Human Services and other parties as required.