Community Rallies To Fight Drug Issue

Friday, 12 September 2014
Three hundred Portland district residents have rallied to take a community stand against the damaging impacts of alcohol, ice and other drugs.

The 'Breaking the Ice' community forum attracted one of the biggest public gatherings seen in Portland for several years.

Glenelg Southern Grampians Drug Treatment Service (GSGDTS) and Portland District Health in conjunction with a network of local services hosted the forum at the Portland Golf Club in response to community calls for more information about ice and other drugs.

GSGDTS manager Bev McIlroy said the big turnout showed the community cared and wanted to address local drug problems.

We were thrilled to get such strong numbers, she said.

From the feedback we received it has put things into perspective for people who realise that ice is a dirty, harmful drug that causes long-term harm for users and families but it is not something the average young person is using, Ms McIlroy said.

The forum featured nationally-recognised specialist in parenting adolescents Dr Michael Carr Gregg and head of information and research at the Australian Drug Foundation Julie Rae and a panel discussion involving police, ambulance, mental health and drug and alcohol professionals.

Speakers urged parents to play a positive role in their children's lives, to encourage them to become involved and engaged, to be good role models and to delay allowing them access to alcohol and other drugs for as long as possible.

While ice was the focus of the forum, speakers also stressed the impact of alcohol and said that drinking alcohol remained the most harmful and most commonly used drug.

Dr Carr-Gregg said that building resilience among young people and having positive involvement of parents were important keys to successful parenting.

There's no such thing as a perfect parent but you need to be a mentor, not a mate,” he said.

Dr Carr-Gregg said parents should set limits and boundaries, not give children everything they want and also let children experience some adversity.

He urged parents to help children “find their spark, to keep active and involved, develop good social networks, and to focus on the good things in life.

If you can’t change something, change the way you think about it, he said.

Communication and helping young people to build resilience and cope with stressful situations are important, he added.

Ms Rae said only about 2.6 per cent of young people use ice. Alcohol is the most harmful and most used drug of choice, followed by cannabis,she said. Alcohol is the biggest drug, but it's cheaper to buy than water.

She said the foundation tried to work on prevention. We want to stop harm before it happens. We still need treatment services but we want to find out why it happens in the first place.

Ms Rae said risk factors for drug and alcohol use included unemployment, disconnection, perceived lack of a future, trauma, peer pressure and availability.

She said that there is treatment available for people using ice and their families, and that parents and the community should stay informed and communicate about problems.

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. It's not just the police and treatment services; it is us the community.

This was supported by addiction medication specialist Dr Rodger Brough who said prevention is the best way of addressing the problem.

"We need to persuade the community that drug abuse is a community problem,” he added.

Portland Police Senior Sergeant Phil Phelan said the Portland community was no different to other regional communities in relation to use of ice. There is a lot of emphasis on ice and we are committed to tackling that problem, but the main driver of assaults and family violence is alcohol, he said.

Ms McIlroy said people with concerns should reach out for support. She said there were support networks available locally, including the Glenelg Southern Grampians Drug Treatment Service, and many online resources.

She said the drug treatment service would be following up on the feedback and looking at ways to continue communicating with the community.

The forum was supported with funding from the Rotary Club of Portland Bay, the Lions Club of Portland and the Andrew Jack Foundation.

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