No extra money is being spent on drug rehabilitation centres despite a national focus on stopping ice addiction in Australia.
The Salvation Army, the largest provider of rehab programs in the country, has waiting lists of up to six months for its residential centres.
But centres have not expanded to meet the spike in ice users in recent years, says the director of the charity’s recovery services in NSW, Queensland, and the ACT.
“We can’t expand the programs because that’s dependent on funding,” Gerard Byrne told AAP on Thursday.
“We’ve tried to open up additional treatment places within our services but that just stretches already thin resources even thinner.”
In April, the federal government said about 400,000 Australians use methamphetamine each year, with half of those using crystal methamphetamine, commonly known as ice.
The Salvation Army’s largest residential rehab centre, in Dooralong on the NSW Central Coast, has 131 beds, while its Sydney services can accommodate 105 people.
Some addicts have been forced to travel to NSW rehab centres – which have a waiting list of up to three months – because they can’t access the same treatment at home.
In Victoria, there are 90 beds across the Salvos’ four rehab centres in metropolitan Melbourne, Bendigo, and Geelong with a waiting list of up to six months.
Waiting times depend on the urgency of the case rather than a first come, first served basis.
“It’s not like going up to the deli at the supermarket and taking your number and waiting until your number’s called,” Mr Byrne said.
People’s needs and risks, among other factors, are assessed to decide their suitability for residential rehab, which can last between three to 10 months.
But the biggest challenge to getting ice addicts into rehab isn’t persuading them that they need help, said Mr Byrne.
“It’s definitely a capacity issue,” he says.
Mr Byrne hopes the prime minister’s National Ice Taskforce, which concluded eight weeks of consultations in July, will highlight the need to expand rehab programs.
A second inquiry on ice and organised crime by a parliamentary joint committee is in Caboolture, Queensland, on Thursday for a public hearing.