If you, or a family member is battling a drug and/or alcohol addiction in Australia, treatment isn’t always easy to access.
Australia-wide there are approximately 1,500 publicly funded drug and alcohol rehab beds. However securing a bed can be a long, arduous and often deadly wait, with Australian agencies receiving more than 32,000 requests per annum from Ice addicts alone.
While thousands of Australians battling drug and alcohol addictions are turning to the local private sector for treatment, they are quickly discovering the cost of accessing such is exorbitant.
Given more than 200,000 Australians are regular Ice users, investigative TV news program, Four Corners, aired a story examining the costs of rehabilitation in Australia on Monday, September 12, 2016.
Four Corners reporter, Ben Knight spoke with the family of Australian teenager, Tiarni, who was heading to an Australian private treatment clinic that charges $30,000 for a three-month treatment course.
When Tiarni’s parents, Wayne and Renee, initially approached the clinic with support from counsellor, Jane, she was able to negotiate the cost of treatment down to $15,000, which saw Tiarni’s family forced to borrow money from friends, and sell their possessions, including their car, in order to pay for treatment.
Speaking to Four Corners, Tiarni’s mum Renee explained how tough it is to expect everyone to be able to afford local, private rehabilitation for addicted family members.
The majority of addicted Australians and their loved ones initially reach out to public rehabilitation clinics for support, but the wait is often way too long. Hence, they end up opting for costly private treatment.
Tiarni’s counsellor, Jane, related the heart-wrenching story of Sarah, an addict with whom she had worked, who was murdered by another addict while awaiting entry to a public rehab clinic.
“Most families don’t have $30,000 sitting in the bank account just to put their child into a rehab centre. It’s just not feasible,” said Sarah’s mother, Noelle.
Four Corners journalist, Ben Knight, visited Riverside, the private rehab clinic that Tiarni was heading to, to examine the reasons behind the high cost of treatment.
Unimpressed with the facility at first impression, Ben asked clinic operator, co-owner and former heroin addict, Carlo La Marchesina, what clients receive for the high cost of treatment.
“Why do we have private clinics like yours springing up?,” queried Ben.
“I guess it’s a supply and demand situation, and the demand at the moment is that people are seeking treatment, and there isn’t enough supply available. The market has opened up for people to access whatever means they can in order to seek treatment,” Carlo said.
Delving a little deeper, Ben soon discovered that Carlo’s clinic was run by an ex-nightclub owner previously convicted of smuggling cocaine into Australia, raising questions as to whether this individual should be running such a clinic.
Carlo explained that the convicted smuggler was on a path to redemption and nowadays hopes to provide people with an opportunity to recover from their respective addictions.
Ben also questioned Carlo about staff training and learned that despite all staff at Carlo’s clinic being professionally trained, there are no regulations governing staff training in Australian rehab clinics.
“Private rehabs like Riverside call themselves clinics, but they operate outside the health system, and outside its rules,” said Ben.
Addiction specialist, Ruben Roule, Drug and Alcohol Services, Western Health, explained there is no accountability for many rehab clinics in Australia today.
“I could start a rehab up tomorrow and hire staff who aren’t suitably qualified and call it a rehab, and charge top dollar, with no questions asked,” said Ruben.
“There needs to be some sort of review of the organisations that aren’t aligned with health-fund providers to become accountable.”
Four Corners further canvassed the opinions of various experts and rehab providers to provide more detail about Australia’s current rehabilitation crisis and associated spiraling costs, concluding with a ‘user beware’ message, with Carlo acknowledging that some providers do “rip” people off.
“There are way too many rogue operators in this field that can, and will, take advantage of people paying the money,” he said.
To learn more, watch the full Four Corners story here.