More want help for alcohol and drug woes
Health experts are warning the State Government against downgrading any drug addiction services, as figures reveal clinics are handling more alcohol and cannabis problems and a surge in helpline calls from parents.
The State Government's Drug and Alcohol Office annual report shows treatments in 2012-13 rose 16 per cent to almost 33,000 and services at sobering-up clinics increased 28 per cent to more than 15,000.
Alcohol-related hospital adm-issions rose almost 40 per cent between 2007 and last year.
Calls to the 24-hour Alcohol and Drug Information Service hotline and the Parent Drug Information Service also increased, including a doubling of calls about cannabis in five years.
The report said WA's rate of risky drinking was higher than the national average and though fewer children drank alcohol, those who did consumed more.
Curtin University professor of health policy Mike Daube said the figures heightened concerns about the State Government's planned merger of the DAO with the Mental Health Commission and argued it was crucial neither lost funding.
Mental Health Minister Helen Morton announced five months ago that the two agencies would amalgamate to improve prevention and treatment services.
She said the sectors had a big overlap, with studies showing half those with mental illness also had a drug or alcohol problem.
DAO chairman Gary Geelhoed, WA's chief medical officer, said services were under increasing pressure and it was vital the office continued its work.
"We need to know the resources will be available so we can minimise the harm from drugs and alcohol, particularly at a time when there is a surge in alcohol promotion and higher levels of binge-drinking in young people," he said.
Professor Daube said he believed Mrs Morton had a strong commitment but the merger downgraded drug and alcohol issues, which would reduce their profile.
He said it was an odd time to downgrade, particularly with more parents worried about alcohol. He was frustrated that the Liquor Control Act review to address concerns had been delayed again.
The Australian Medical Association said it discussed with Mrs Morton concerns about the merger and still had reservations about the decision.
It warned the move could send the wrong message to people seeking medical help through the two sectors.