NSW shadow minister for the north coast Walt Secord has called on NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian to hold another drug summit at NSW State Parliament to deal with the rising number of ice deaths in rural and regional areas.
Mr Secord said the drug was sweeping through northern NSW, and other regional areas including western, central west and mid-north coast.
The research compiled by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre shows that methamphetamine-related deaths in Australia doubled in the period 2009 and 2015. The analysis also showed that 43 per cent of ice-related deaths were from overdoses. In addition, it found that 41 per cent of ice-related deaths were in rural and regional areas.
Mr Secord said the proposed drug summit, modelled on the historic 1999 summit, would include a special session on the challenges and treatment regimes for ice in rural and regional NSW.
Mr Secord said the report on ice usage was “heart-breaking” and when he was appointed Shadow Health Minister in 2015, one of the first visits in the new post was to see first-hand the impact of ice and its link to homelessness and mental illness in Western Sydney.
He said his shadow ministerial office receives letters, emails and telephone calls from the parents of young people addicted to ice on a regular basis.
He added that there was a dearth of treatment beds for ice-addicted young people – especially in rural and regional areas.
He pointed to a recent example of a North Coast family who desperately needed a treatment bed and they could only locate one in the State’s Central West – more than 900 kilometres away.
‘In 1999, dozens of experts came together – in the spirit of goodwill – to look at new approaches. It is time to do so again,’ Mr Secord said.
‘It has been 18 years since the original historic drug summit and the drug landscape is dramatically different.’
‘Illicit drug use has significantly changed in NSW since the 1999 summit. Ice has overtaken heroin.
‘Ice is cheap and readily available. It is actually cheaper than a slab of beer or a pack of cigarettes.
‘We now have ice ravaging rural and regional areas.
‘We should bring together drug experts, family members, health workers, researchers, police, judges and politicians to hold another drug summit.
‘The 1999 drug summit gave rise to the unique medically supervised injecting room in Kings Cross – the only one in Australia. We need innovative approaches to these new emerging drug trends.’
Mr Secord said he and NSW Labor leader Luke Foley pledged in 2015 that the next Labor Government would hold a drug summit –if the Liberals and Nationals had failed to act.
He said Labor now wants the Premier to join the initiative and bring forward plans for another drug summit – with special attention to the scourge of ice in rural and regional areas. The drug is sweeping western, central west, mid-north coast and northern NSW.