Operation Clean Recovery

Ice’s house of hope: New facility to treat addicts as young as 16

Ice's house of hope: New facility to treat addicts as young as 16
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A new kind of drug treatment centre has opened south of Sydney to give users as young as 16, for the first time, a real chance at beating their addiction.

Almost all are fighting to break free from the grip of the most harmful illicit drug Australia has ever known: methamphetamine, better known as ice.

To this new place on the hill they came from all over Australia.

And soon, hundreds will come, some as young as 16, desperate to reclaim their lives frozen in ice.

For young Australian ice users, hope sits on a hill south of Sydney. Source: 7 News

Many will be addicts like Jade (not her real name), who remembers her first taste of the drug.

"It just makes everything feel so much better," she told 7 News.

The 23-year-old is now starting her life over.

"I used pills and marijuana from a young age," she said, "and then I started – I got introduced to Ice when I was 20 and I tried it again when I was 21 and I couldn't stop."

After she got hooked, everything else in Jade's life was out on ice.

The facility will be able to help people as young as 16. Source: 7 News

"I was working, I had a fulltime job, I was a fully qualified hairdresser, I had my own car, and I was living with my sister" she said.

"I lost all of that."

After eight weeks in a nearby residential care program, Jade is about to re-enter the world. Even after all she's accomplished she is scared.

"If I do it again, coz I have lied a lot and I'm not sure how many chances people have, like, are going to give me," Jade said.

Local federal MP Anne Sudmalis (centre) said the facility is worth helping young people in need.

Ice addicts looking to get their lives back on track can find a new kind of quick fix – a detox centre for 16- to 24-year-olds based in the New South Wales Southern Highlands.

Staffed by registered nurses and counsellors, it's a game-changer for those with everything to lose.

Run by Mission Australia, CEO Catherine Yeomans said up until now, young people could only hope for up to five days in a hospital to get clean.

"Detox, and they can re-establish their life in the community with family support, maybe re-engage in education or get a job," she said.

"Well they're trying to get support, either in an adult detoxification facility, in a hospital or they're detoxing at home under supervision and medical care.

"This isn't satisfactory for a young person, we owe young people better than that."

It's hoped the facility will help 100 young people each year. Source: 7 News

The $3 million centre was built with federal funding and donations after the local Federal MP Ann Sudmalis, distraught over her the effects of ice on her friends' children, decided to act.

"Thank you everybody for the all the work you do, for the life-changing help you will give to these young people," Ms Sudmalis said of the centre's opening.

"Because, you know what? They're worth it!"

David Martin Place will care for 10 young addicts at a time, for 28 days – more than one hundred a year from all over the country.

Programme manager Gabriella Holmes has been helping teenagers in pain for fourteen years at the neighbouring rehabilitation centre.

Programme manager Gabriella Holmes said there is hope for all young people. Source: 7 News

She said the young people come into her care arrive in a sorry state, with three out of four having attempted suicide.

"I guess the best way to describe that is 73 per cent of the young people we see have attempted to take their life in the 12 months prior coming into treatment, so they are without hope," she said.

Despite seeing some in utter despair and broken, Ms Holmes said she is never disheartened.

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"What we do is come from a place of hope for young people and so we get to see that change and we know that sometimes we're not at the right time or the place for that person but for the majority of the time young people are able to make significant change."

The goal in the first year is to help 100 young people make that change. And the centre has opened not a moment too soon.

Similar centres have been shown to have a $3 benefit for every $1 put in. Source: 7 News

The latest figures show a 23 per cent jump in the crystal methamphetamine in Australia and a total of 1.3 million Australians over 14 years of age have used ice.
Of those detained by police, one third say ice was the reason they committed their crime.

Overall, the cost of illicit drugs to Australian society has hit $4.4 billion per year.

A cost benefit analysis of the sister programme found for every $1 spent it produced $3 in benefits to the community.

"There's a moral and ethical argument as to why we need these detox facilities, there's also an economic argument for our community," Ms Yeomans said.

"We make sure we don't stop here either... we want to see programmes like this, we want to see programs like this replicated right across the state and right across the country."

Mission Australia's other youth detox centre in Perth has helped 400 youngsters transition into residential care where they have a 72 per cent success rate.

That's great news for Ms Holmes, who believes "everybody has the capacity for change" and no one is beyond help.

Now they have a place to make it happen.

And Jade is just one example of a life can be turned around.

"There's help out there," she said. "It's there, it's just waiting for you to look it up."

The first young addicts will arrive at the centre next month.

If you are concerned about the mental health of yourself or a loved one, seek support and information by calling Lifeline 13 11 14, Mensline 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline 1800 551 800

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