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Expansion of the Drug Court will help people in Melbourne with drug dependency Analysis

Expansion of the Drug Court will help people in Melbourne with drug dependency

justice

The expansion of the Drug Court of Victoria to the Melbourne region will help reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for people with drug dependencies and their families.

This week the Victorian Government announced $32 million to establish a new Drug Court at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court. The Drug Court responds to the failure of traditional criminal justice measures to adequately address drug use and related offending. It sentences offenders with drug dependencies who have committed an offence under the influence of alcohol and drugs, or to support their addiction. It provides a collaborative, multi-departmental response to drug dependence and related crime.

The recent evaluation of the Drug Court showed that while participants remain on drug treatment orders, they experience improvements in their wellbeing and connectedness to the community, which can improve their chances of staying off drugs and alcohol and substantially reduce the risk of reoffending. Participants also reported improvements in their health as a result of being on the program. Participants who progressed to the later stages of the Drug Court program improved their family relationships and housing stability, as well as other life skill areas such as time management and accountability.

Drug Court participants also reoffend far less frequently and severely. The reoffending rate for participants was 31 per cent lower within the first 12 months and 34 per cent within the first 24 months, than for the control group.

The expansion of the Drug Court is an important step that will make it available to more people living in the Melbourne area. However, many Victorians living outside the Dandenong and Melbourne Magistrates’ Court catchments will still be unable to access this program and access to Drug Court is needed across the state, including rural and regional areas

The Drug Court announcement forms part of the second stage response to the Ice Action Plan that was released in 2015 to reduce the demand, supply and harm from ice in the Victorian community. In addition to the Drug Court funding, the announcement also included:

  • $5.5 million for training and support to frontline workers who are delivering services to people affected by ice.
  • $6 million for a residential rehabilitation facility in the Grampians region.
  • $10 million to improve mental health and alcohol and drug treatment facilities to achieve more therapeutic and safer environments for people who need them.
  • $4 million over four years for a pilot project to respond to ice in Aboriginal communities.

VCOSS looks forward to receiving more information about how the funding for Aboriginal communities will be delivered. To ensure programs are culturally safe and meet the needs of the Aboriginal community they need to be designed and delivered in partnership with Aboriginal community controlled organisations.

This recent funding announcement also builds on the $45 million package announced last year, that included more support for families, expansion of drug treatment services and grants for communities to tackle local issues.


Header image: Steve Calcott (Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)