Mandatory rehab for drunks

REPEAT problem drinkers in Katherine will be required to undertake mandatory alcohol rehabilitation under a new plan to reduce alcohol related harm and anti-social behaviour.

Minister for Alcohol Rehabilitation, Robyn Lambley, said a new approach was required to end the cycle of alcohol abuse in the region.

Under the new reforms, problem drinkers placed in protective custody three times in two months will be assessed for mandatory rehabilitation.

From July 1, problem drinkers in and around Katherine who meet the criteria will undertake a program of mandatory alcohol treatment at the Venndale rehabilitation facility for a period of up to 12 weeks.

At the implementation stage, at least 40 problem drinkers a year are expected to be placed in rehab in Katherine.

“This is a new approach to dealing with the harmful effects of alcohol consumption on individuals and the Northern Territory community,” Mrs Lambley said.

“Alcohol abuse costs the Territory $642 million every year in police time, hospitalisations and lost productivity. It affects individuals, families, neighbourhoods and businesses and a fresh approach to dealing with problem drunks is long overdue.”

Venndale alcohol rehabilitation program manager Casey Bishop said Venndale facilities had to be expanded to cope with the demand. 

“Venndale is very excited and keen to play a part in the mandatory rehabilitation process because we are fully aware of the back-log of people needing treatment,” he said.

“There is a substantial number of people in and around Katherine who are placed in Sobering Up Shelters, police cells and Katherine Hospital who never make the rehabilitation process.

“The demand the new legislation is going to create, we currently can’t cope with,” he said. 

“They are indicating a minimum of 40 people a year - you work that out based on three month stays, probably for a year - you would need another ten to twenty beds to start with.

“But it’s not just the beds. We need to expand the amenities and the amount of staff, but we also need to add new programs and training.”

Territory wide, up to 800 problem drinkers will receive alcohol mandatory treatment in Katherine, Darwin, Alice Springs and Gove.

Read the full story in the April 17 edition of the Katherine Times.