The Hodgman Liberal Government will deliver an additional $4.8 million in the upcoming state budget to tackle the problem of ice and other drugs in Tasmania.

The funding, which will be delivered over four years, will deliver 12 new residential rehabilitation beds, with a priority on delivering a residential rehabilitation program based on the North West.

Through this funding all 11 recommendations of last year’s report into ice use on the North West will be implemented, as we committed to doing as soon as resources were available.

It will also enable the employment of two new specialist positions within the Alcohol and Drug Service, to be based in Launceston and Ulverstone, to work across the North and North West liaising with community services and the broader health system on both prevention and treatment strategies.

There has been a longstanding service gap in this area on the North West and I am pleased that we have been able to find the funding to now address it.

The funding will also assist the development of data collection and information systems which will give us a clearer picture of up-to-date evidence which can be shared across Government and non-Government services.

Since the report we commissioned into ice usage in the North West late last year we have implemented the recommendations which could be addressed immediately without new resources, and we have been working closely with stakeholders to prepare for implementation of recommendations, such as additional rehabilitation services, which required us to find new funding in very tight budget circumstances.

Today’s announcement of a significant investment of $4.8 million demonstrates the level of research, community and stakeholder consultation and planning the State Government has been doing since the report was released in November 2014.

The delivery of this additional funding, which we have been working towards since last year, shows how seriously the Liberal Government takes this issue.

While some of our political opponents have tried to suggest there has been a lack of urgency from the Government, they know that an investment of this magnitude can only be allocated through the budget process, especially given the disastrous position they left the state budget in. We have done the heavy lifting and made the difficult budget decisions over the past year that will enable us to fund essential services like this sustainably into the future.

A request for proposals for delivery of the residential rehabilitation beds will be advertised by the end of this month with a view to a provider or providers being selected and funding flowing by July. I have had numerous discussions with existing drug and alcohol service providers on the North West already and I am sure that there will be significant interest in one or more of those organisations in delivering the new beds.

The Government’s draft White Paper on Safe and Sustainable Clinical Services Exposure Draft released last month also flags the establishment of a drug and alcohol service at the Mersey Community Hospital in Tasmania’s North West, including drug and alcohol rehabilitation beds.  These would complemented by greater resourcing for services at the North West Regional Hospital. We continue to work through the White Paper process on these service improvements.

We also welcome the Federal Government’s national taskforce and we will work closely with them to tackle ice use across Tasmania.

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