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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 February 2021) . . Page.. 276 ..

We already have some idea of the difficulties facing this sector. In August last year, providers of rehabilitation services publicly spoke about long waiting lists. Some services indicated that, pre-COVID, those seeking assistance could be waiting for several months, and one provider noted that it had “about 30 people waiting on the books”.

At the same time, Alcohol Tobacco & Other Drug Association ACT noted that specialist alcohol and drug treatment in the territory is in “high demand” by the community, with resourcing over past years failing to keep pace. They have asserted that their modelling “indicates that treatment places need to double to meet demand”. Instead, some providers have had to cut their programs in half in response to restrictions resulting from the pandemic.

As the petition itself states, delays in accessing rehabilitation services can negatively hinder successful treatment. This is true for adults, but it is even more true for youths. As specialists know, the optimal time to help a young person is the very moment she or he walks through the door. Placing a young person on a very long waiting list often results in a situation that is much more complicated to fix, and it is often too late. Too many of those who signed this petition have personally experienced this tragedy. One family, for example, has a son who struggles with addiction. He has been referred by the court to specialist drug treatment, but he and the family have now been waiting for many months to access this help; meanwhile, the young man’s situation is deteriorating with each passing week.

We must do better, Madam Speaker. We need to identify the current strengths and weaknesses of both prevention and treatment services, we need to accurately assess current and future demands, and we need to seek service and funding models that will better meet people’s needs. On behalf of the Canberra residents, I commend this petition to the Assembly.

MR DAVIS (Brindabella) (10.08): I would like to personally thank and congratulate all 699 petitioners who have signed Mrs Kikkert’s sponsored petition, and I would like to congratulate and put on the record my appreciation of Mrs Kikkert for her well-known reputation in the community for being someone who is very active in this public policy space. I am very excited to work with Mrs Kikkert and Mr Pettersson on the Standing Committee on Health and Community Wellbeing on this very important issue.

As members will recall, in my inaugural speech last year I noted that before coming to this Assembly I lived with and cared for a family member who struggled with drug dependency. It is an area of public policy I am most excited to get to work on. I am most excited to strip off those partisan shackles and get together in the committee to work on this.

I again thank all 699 people who signed the petition for their considered involvement in this area of public policy. I look forward to their submissions, and I again thank Mrs Kikkert for sponsoring the petition.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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