Threat to Lyndon funds cuts no ice

MORE RESOURCES, NOT LESS: Lyndon Community chief executive Ed Zarnow says federal government funding cuts to drug and alcohol treatment programs “would have a dramatic effect on the ability of our organisation to continue”. Photo: STEVE GOSCH WHEN Daniel* arrived at the Lyndon House rehabilitation centre in October, he was homeless, addicted and feeling worthless.
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His friends were substance abusers, his family had largely given up and he had been referred to rehab by a magistrate.

“He was very quiet when he came in,” remembers Lyndon program manager Cathy Wilson. “But then we discovered he had an amazing sense of humour and was very witty.”

The 27-year-old completed the three-month program and now lives in Sydney, attending TAFE. By the time he left Lyndon, he was done with ice and alcohol and “he knew he could have friends and engage with people without being under the influence”, Ms Wilson said.

It was another success story, at least for now.

The Lyndon Community is at the front line of drug and alcohol addiction in the Central West. Around 500 people a year come through the 12-bed, supervised detoxification clinic in Orange, while the rehab program accommodates up to 15 people at a time.

The detox clinic and Lyndon counselling services are 98 per cent commonwealth funded. Making it one of many organisations around the country vulnerable to expected budget cuts to drug and alcohol treatment programs.

“If commonwealth money were taken away, it would mean the detox program would close and our outreach program would also close,” chief executive Ed Zarnow said. “It would have a dramatic effect on the ability of our organisation to continue.”

In regional areas particularly, Australia is grappling with the scourge of ice (methamphetamine). It is not necessarily the most prevalent addiction – at Lyndon, alcohol still plays that role – but it is probably the most insidious and difficult to treat.

According to government figures, ice use more than doubled between 2010 and 2013, and the substance now accounts for 59 per cent of all detected illicit drug imports into Australia.

Against that backdrop, senior people in the sector say the federal government is at odds with itself on drugs – fretting loudly about the ice epidemic on one hand, while cutting funding for services on the other.

“Taking money out of an already stretched sector – even though the money may appear small has a magnifying effect,” Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association executive officer Sam Biondo said.

“It seems to be contradictory to the general perception that there’s a higher need for increased service delivery in the alcohol and drug space.”

This year’s federal budget cut $596.2 million from flexible health funds over the forward estimates – from a cumulative pool of $11.8 billion. The programs that will be affected, and by how much, will be finalised by the department in coming weeks. Two of the 16 funding streams, dealing with indigenous health and medical indemnity, have been quarantined.

It was also confirmed at a Senate estimates hearing earlier in June that drug and alcohol treatment will be hit by an additional, smaller round of cuts made in the 2014 budget.

The two streams of funding that deal with substance misuse will be cut by 13 per cent (or $8.2 million) in 2015-16; $7 million from prevention and $1.2 million from service delivery, assistant secretary Richard Bartlett said.

Larry Pierce runs the Network of Alcohol and Drug Agencies, the peak body for the non-government, specialist drug and alcohol sector in NSW. It represents 105 organisations that provide services such as detox, rehabilitation, counselling and pharmacotherapy. About half are predominantly reliant on government money, Mr Pierce says, with federal funding accounting for a third of their budgets.

He estimates as many as 20 agencies – mostly smaller programs with no connection to a bigger charity or church – could be under threat from the looming cuts.

“It’s potentially a huge impact on the capacity of these organisations to provide services directly to clients with drug problems, and to their families and loved ones and carers,” he says.

At any rate, the uncertainty plays havoc with staff, who have rent and bills to pay but no guarantee about their future. The Lyndon Community has lost half a dozen experienced staff members in the past 12 months for that reason, even though its funding has, so far, ultimately remained stable.

“That’s been a real issue for us,” Mr Zarnow said.

Turnover also harms the efficacy of treatment. The sector is keen to stress the importance of intimate, local connections between staff and clients – especially when working with Aboriginal people, who make up 40 per cent of Lyndon’s patients.

“It can take a good six months for a worker to build up a relationship with the community,” Mr Zarnow said. “When you lose that person, you’re starting all over again.”

Then there is the debate over competitive tendering, and whether it disadvantages small agencies. Lyndon recently hired external help to bolster its case for funds against rivals. But many boutique organisations lack the capacity to demonstrate their own worth, even though they are doing valuable work, Mr Pierce said.

“[They] don’t have the same resources as the Salvation Army to provide a crackerjack, data-gathering tender-writing process,” he said. “There is a problem there.”

Both Mr Pierce and Mr Zarnow make the point that treating methamphetamine addiction requires more resources, not less.

At Lyndon, ice has overtaken cannabis as the second-most common reason for seeking treatment. Compared to heroin users, people on ice can be erratic and volatile, and the rehabilitation process can be lengthier and more intensive.

“These are quite sick individuals when they come in for treatment, usually,” Mr Pierce said. “They’re not in good nick.”

Announcing the creation of a national ice taskforce under his own department in April, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the ice epidemic was “beyond anything that we have seen before”.

Then in May, Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash announced an $11 million “hard-hitting new advertising campaign” to target ice addiction. But the television commercial turned out to be an almost shot-for-shot remake of an ad that aired from 2007 to 2009.

Mr Pierce says regardless of the content, the strategy is off-kilter.

“TV ads are a waste. Go to the literature – there’s no evidence base for them,” he says. “A young person who’s decided to have a crack at smoking a bit of methamphetamine is not going to be scared off.”

That view is echoed by opposition health spokesman Stephen Jones. He welcomes the ice taskforce but says the funding cuts undermine the government’s rhetoric on ice.

“What they’ve done is they’ve cut the budget and said [to the health department] ‘now you go away and sort out how to make this work’,” he said. “That’s putting the cart before the horse.”

Mr Jones said representatives from various health sectors are lobbying the government to quarantine them from the hovering axe. He wants drug and alcohol services left alone, but said the bottom line is simple.

“The cuts should not occur.”

*Not his real name

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A passionate plea

PRESSURE POINT: Crash victim Stephanie Smyth recounts the night that changed her life forever. Picture: Brodie OwenRELATED
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‘Upgrade road now’Death sparks urgent pleasA ‘lovely kid’ killed in horror smashIt is the stretch of bitumen that changed Stephanie Smyth’s life forever.

Six years on from the night her car became wrapped around a gum tree, Ms Smyth, 27, is passionately calling on Wagga City Council to undertake urgent upgrades of Pine Gully Road.

Council is yet to publiclyannounce whether it plans to carry out upgrades.

The scene of Stephanie Smyth’s crash in 2009. Picture: Supplied

“I’m only doing this in the hope it makes a difference,” Ms Smyth said.

“The accident that night changed my life forever – and I don’t want anyone to ever have to go through what I went through. It’s a dangerous road and it’s going to happen again if someone doesn’t do something.”

Ms Smyth, who was returning to her university accommodation, lost control of her car after she hit loose gravel. The impact of the crash broke both her arms and her legs and split open her head.

The scene of Stephanie Smyth’s crash in 2009. Picture: Supplied

The Wagga woman was found by a campus security guard four hours later.

What would follow was 12 days inintensive care – 10 of which she was unconscious for – and multiple surgeries.

She now has life-long muscle weakness.

The scene of Stephanie Smyth’s crash in 2009. Picture: Supplied

Her accident was not the first in 2009 – and it hasn’t been the last.

Two weeks ago 18-year-old Peter Murray was killed after the car he was travelling in struck a tree on the same stretch of road.

“The fact is inexperienced drivers regularly use the road,” Ms Smyth said.

“I can’t see why that is ever going to change. The road is too narrow and the speed limit is far too high for the conditions.”

Ms Smyth also said poor lighting, unsealed edges and a dogleg adds to the dangerous conditions.

Traffic movements are set to increaseon Pine Gully Road in coming years as theEstella Rise housing estate advances.

URBAN SPRAWL: The Estella Rise development borders the 100km/h section of Pine Gully Road. Picture: Brodie Owen

One city councillor said up to 6000 new blocks –comparable to a town the size of Cootamundra –had been approved before any significant infrastructure upgrade.

It comes as a Wagga petition gathers more than 1000 signatures in support of an upgrade.

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Tough conditions

INVESTIGATION: MND patient Barry Lucas being examined by Macquarie University’s Professor Dominic Rowe in Griffith last year.A scientistinvestigating the link between blue-green algae and motor neurone disease (MND) in the Griffith area said a lack of government funding was making it difficult to finda cure for the debilitating illness.
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According toProfessor Gilles Guillemin, co-director of the MND and neurodegenerative diseases research centre atMacquarie University, the rate of MND in the Riverina is 10 times higher than the national average.

Teams from Macquarie University have been travelling to the Riverina over the past few years collecting water and fish samples from places like Lake Wyangan.

Prof Guillemin went on to sayMND was “absolutely” adisease that could be treated or cured if enough money was provided to fund research.

”Funding has declined dramatically,” Prof Guillemin said.“I have seen too many good scientists leaving medical research and go for stable teaching positions or move to private companies.

“Master and PhD students are deserting medical research, and they are wise to do so.Keeping our current mid-carrier scientists (usually the most productive in the lab) is becoming a serious issue.

“To give you an example, I have been working on MND for 10 years, published several scientific manuscripts, but never got a National Health and Medical Research Council grant for this work. We’re always supported by philanthropy.”

He said they were about to initiate the first clinical trial, if they could find the one million dollars required to fund it.

“One of the biggest issues (in securing funding) is that MND iswronglyconsidered a rare disease,” Prof Guillemin said.“In 1986, one death in 500 was caused by MND, it is now one in 180. In Australia,every day at least two people die of it and another two or more are diagnosed with MND.Such an increase (2.7 times in the last twodecades) has to be environmental, it cannot be genetic.So, low interest, low funding…”

Local-bornAFL legend Neale Daniher recently spoke toFairfaxabout his battle with MND.

“Every day you open the newspaper,there is another therapy and another treatment,” Mr Daniher said.

“The problem is it is locally underfunded.

“We’re trying to raise money to fund medical research and find a cure.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult if there is no money.”

Motor neurone disease affects the nerves that enable the body tomove, speak and breathe, causing them toslowly die.

It is a terminal illness and patients are only expected to survive between two and four years after diagnosis.

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Goals aplenty in first half as Wanderers win

Matt Johnson scored one of three goals for Orange Wanderers in their men’s Premier League Hockey win over Lithgow Zig Zag. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0516menhockey8HOCKEY
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A THRILLING opening half has helped Orange Wanderers to a 3-2 men’s Premier League Hockey (PLH) victory.

Playing in the Parkes Gala Day on Saturday, the Wanderers were up 3-2 over Lithgow Zig Zag at half-time and the score remained unchanged through to the final buzzer.

“We had a win. It probably wasn’t one of our most convincing second halves, but we won,” Wanderers coach Pete Shea explained.

It was an action-packed first half with Zig Zag’s Dan Sheppard scoring in the game’s opening 90 seconds.

This didn’t deter the Orange side as they were able to put on three goals in response.

Adam Skelton was first to score for Wanderers before Connor Morris and Matt Johnson added to the tally with their field goals.

The Orange side had a further three scoring opportunities in the first half but couldn’t convert.

“We were 3-1 up and we had an explosion in our defensive circle and it cost us a short corner and they (Zig Zag) put it in,” Shea said.

Evan McGrath was able to convert the short corner chance for Zig Zag to reduce the margin to one in the final 90 seconds on the first half.

Shea said his side delivered an up-and-down performance in the second half.

“We lost our structure in attack and the mid-field,” he said.

“Our defence guys worked pretty hard. We conceded a few short corners but didn’t let them score.”

Shea praised Matt Johnson and goalkeeper Troy Kelly, who played his first PLH game with the Wanderers.

The win moves Wanderers onto third on the men’s PLH ladder, two points ahead of fourth-placed Bathurst Souths.

The Wanderers’ victory did come at a significant cost, with English import Todd Freedman breaking his collarbone during the match.

He is expected to be out for at least six weeks.

“Todd Freedman played his best game for us before he came off injured,” Shea said.

In other men’s PLH matches on Saturday, Bathurst St Pat’s stayed on top of the ladder with a 4-1 win over Parkes United, Lithgow Panthers downed Bathurst Souths 5-1, and Dubbo accounted for Bathurst City 3-1.

ORANGE WANDERERS 3 (Connor Morris, Adam Skelton, Matt Johnson) def LITHGOW ZIG ZAG 2 (Dan Sheppard, Evan McGrath).

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Colbo outclasses Demons in HDFL

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: Colbinabbin’s Grant Weeks and White Hills’ Jason Curtain. Picture: GLENN DANIE:SWHITE HILLS V COLBINABBIN: PHOTOS
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COLBINABBIN put the foot down after half-time to defeat White Hills by 58 points and keep within a game of the Heathcote District Football League top three on Saturday.

The Grasshoppers booted eight goals to one after the break to win 15.16 (106) to 7.6 (48) at Tint-a-Car Oval and notch their third win in a row.

“We were a bit concerned about today with White Hills having been in some good form the past couple of weeks,” Colbinabbin coach Phil Morgan said.

“What was really pleasing today was the spread of contributors… we had 10 different players on our vote cards.”

The Grasshoppers broke the game open in the third quarter.

Having led by 11 points at half-time, the Grasshoppers booted 6.2 to 0.2 in the third term to take command of the contest.

“Our tackle pressure in the third quarter was really big,” Morgan said.

“We were able to get the game on our terms and away we went.”

Grant Weeks bagged seven goals for the Grasshoppers to take his season tally to 50.

Weeks was Colbinabbin’s only multiple goalkicker in what was a win that improved the Grasshoppers to 6-3.

“We had a really good week on the track and that carried on to today and we just want to keep building momentum,” Morgan said.

White Hills kicked five of its seven goals in the second quarter, cutting what had been a 26-point quarter-time deficit back to 11 at the main break.

Victor Caristo (three) and Matt Sawyer (two) were the multiple goalkickers for the Demons in what was their eighth-straight loss to Colbinabbin.

• For the second time this season, North Bendigo beat reigning premier Lockington-Bamawm United by more than 150 points.

Having belted the Cats in the grand final rematch by 166 points in round one, this time the margin was 157 as the Bulldogs won 26.25 (181) to 3.6 (24) at Superior Roofing Oval.

The win came on the back of the Bulldogs having suffered their first loss of the season the previous week against Leitchville-Gunbower.

“We put an emphasis before the game on responding from last week because we weren’t happy with how we performed,” Bulldogs co-coach Rob Bennett said.

“To the boys’ credit, we came out and played a good four quarter game that we haven’t done the past month.

“We wanted to share the footy around and just getback to enjoying our footy today, which we did.”

The Bulldogs led by 40 points at quarter-time, 76 at half-time, and 122 at three quarter-time, before the final margin of 157.

With North Bendigo already 20 goals up at three quarter-time, Bennett reminded his players of some of the hidings the Bulldogs have copped off the Cats in the past.

“We spoke at three quarter-time that they have had us in these positions before and never shown any compassion,” Bennett said.

“So we really wanted the boys to finish the game right off and not be happy with what they’d achieved to that stage.”

Full-forward Sam Barnes (five), who battled gastro, Aarryn Craig (four), Brady Herdman (four), Elliott Massina (three) and Jeremy Mills (three) all kicked at least three goals for the Bulldogs, who boosted their percentage from 174.3 to 196.5 with the win.

Aarryn Craig produced his best four-quarter game of the season for the Bulldogs to be their best player, while Darcy Richards across half-back, fellow backman Jordan Ford, Mills and Herdman were also among the standouts.

Joseph Wolfe kicked two of the Cats’ three goals and was his side’s best player.

Samuel Wolfe, Greg Carne and Marcus Angove also battled hard against the odds for the Cats.

• Leitchville-Gunbower’s unbeaten season continued with a 37-point win over Mount Pleasant at Toolleen.

Determined to avoid a let-down from the previous week’s blockbuster win over North Bendigo, the Bombers kicked six goals to one in the first quarter to set up their 13.13 (91) to 8.6 (54) win.

After quarter-time it was seven goals apiece, with the Bombers’ early flurry proving the pivotal period of the contest.

“Our first quarter was one of the better quarters we’ve played for the year,” Bombers coach Matt Hawken said.

“We were right on top in that first quarter, but Mounts fought back hard over the rest of the game.”

Midfielder Daniel Couwenberg, defenders Dan Meroli and Kieran Treacy and wingman Tim Lincoln (three goals), who continued his outstanding form, were the best for the Bombers.

While the Bombers are flying at 9-0 ahead of the bye this week, the Blues are now 2-7 and remain two games outside the top five.

“I wasn’t too disappointed with today; they are a quality team and we let them get away early and missed a few chances, but we fought hard,” Blues coach Derrick Filo said.

The Blues’ 31-point deficit at quarter-time was the third consecutive game they have been jumped by their opponent.

Skipper James Walsh, Michael Licciardo, Matthew Filo and the classy Simon Seddon were the best for the Blues, who had Taig Griffin and Nathan Whipp kick three goals.

As he has every game this season, Griffin was also named in the Blues’ best six.

“When you see local boys taking the next step like Taig has this year and become a really good player, that’s pleasing,” Filo said.

• Huntly won its fourth game in a row, defeating Heathcote by 71 points at Pigeon Park.

The Hawks prevailed 20.13 (133) to 9.8 (62) in a performance where their standouts included Harry Whittle (four goals), centre half-back Kyle Shepherd, ruckman Jamie Garner and Ryan Semmel (four goals).

The Hawks were quick to make their mark on the contest, building a 31-point lead at quarter-time.

Heathcote – which hasn’t won since the corresponding round 10 last year – was best served by Kyle Seidel through the midfield, full-back Luke Carroll, who held Hawks spearhead Chris Gleeson to one goal, onballer Jake Condon (two goals) and Marc Millard (three goals).

“Our boys battled hard all game and considering the injury list we’ve got at the moment, I thought it was a good effort,” Saints coach Paul Kennedy said.

“Huntly was very polished and has some classy players, but I thought we competed well and gave an honest effort.”

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