Private pain of rehab

personAn ABC Four Corners report that aired on Monday night revealed the high price parents pay to help their children fight ice addiction.

Many publicly-funded rehabilitation centres have long waiting lists, forcing some parents to turn to expensive private clinics.

According to the Four Corners report, the standard cost for a three-month treatment is $30,000. Many parents risk emptying their superannuation accounts or face the possibility of bankruptcy to fund their children’s treatment.

UnitingCare ReGen CEO Laurence Alvis said residential rehabilitation is not the only option for people seeking support for substance abuse.

“$30,000 is just the base cost. With all the additional extras you could finish up paying $50,000-60,000 for treatment, which is exorbitant,” he said.

“There is no charge for people to do one of our six week non-residential programs, but the cost of delivering the service is around $7,500.”

Mr Alvis said it was important public conversations around drug and alcohol treatment are not limited to just detox and rehab. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and other alternatives are available for people seeking treatment.

“Many families have this belief that if their loved one is detoxed and in rehab, then that will automatically fix them up, but it’s a much longer process,” he said.

“And if you’re a mother with three children or if you’re a working person, then rehab isn’t really an option for you.”

An example of a non-residential treatment is ReGen’s Catalyst program, which aims to adopt a holistic approach to recovery. Instead of staying at a residential rehab centre, clients visit ReGen for six weeks and go through a number of core programs focusing on cognitive behavioural therapy, motivational enhancement and counselling.

“One of the frustrations we have in the sector is that issues like family breakdown, housing, employment and other issues going on in their lives lead people to use drugs in the first place. It’s like their self-medication to make their lives feel better,” Mr Alvis explained.

“So if you’re not actually addressing some of those issues at the same time as looking at their physical withdrawal from substances, as soon as they leave all those come back again.

“One of the things that we found is a real advantage in the non-residential program is that people go home at the end of the day. So they are able to go home and practice in their environment what they need to do to stop their substance abuse.”

The program has been externally evaluated and shown to have a completion rate of 60-70 per cent and sustained benefits for program participants. It is part of a range of ReGen services that saw the agency recognised last year with a Victorian Public HealthCare Award for its innovative, evidence-based responses to methamphetamine dependence.

In contrast, some private clinics lure desperate parents with attractive promises that are not backed by evidence or research. The lack of oversight in the private sector has made it open to abuse by unethical for-profit providers.

“At the moment, there is no accreditation, no minimum standards,” Mr Alvis said.

“If you look at the public sector, someone like ReGen has to have accreditation to get Department of Health and Human Services funding and we have to have the minimum standards for trained staff to operate.”

Currently the public health system is unable to keep up with demand and Mr Alvis said extra government funding will help address some of the issues in the sector.

“In Victoria, the funded services in the public sector can meet about 50 per cent of demand for the request for drug and alcohol services, so extra resources from that point of view will go a long way,” he said.

“There are some pretty unscrupulous operators out there who see people in a desperate situation and think there’s a buck to be made and I think that was really clear last night.”

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