Drug users help build a case for better rehab, support services in Murray Bridge

More than 200 local drug users have helped Flinders University researchers paint a picture of illicit drugs in Murray Bridge, and the need for more local services.

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More than 200 local drug users have responded to a survey which will help build the case for for better treatment and support services in Murray Bridge.

The Flinders University drug survey asked locals – anonymously – which illicit drugs they had used recently and how they would rate the availability, purity and price of those drugs in Murray Bridge.

Respondents could also choose to keep a record of their drug use over a 90-day period.

In either case they were rewarded with supermarket vouchers.

“There has been a lot of media coverage about drug use and harms in Australia in recent years, with a focus on regional and rural areas,” researchers Caitlin Hughes, Andrew Goldsmith, Mark Halsey and Sharyn Goudie said in an introduction to the survey.

“But we have limited data to tell us what is actually happening in regional communities.”

The survey results will be combined with an analysis of local wastewater, which typically contains traces of the drugs being used by local people.

The survey’s results would help the Murray Bridge council advocate for better services, Mayor Brenton Lewis said.

“Murray Bridge has worn the tag of ‘meth capital of Australia’,” he said.

“Data collected would indicate that Murray Bridge does have a problem with drug and alcohol abuse.”

Mental health was another significant – and related – issue the council hoped to tackle, he said at a meeting on Monday night.

A lack of local treatment options was a problem in that area, too.

“People present (at the Murray Bridge hospital) with a whole range of issues around mental health, from very, very serious, dangerous, to mild and under control,” he said.

“Some can have some reasonable service at the emergency department, but unfortunately a majority require more than that one quick visit and ‘go home, sit down and have a cup of tea’.

“People are being sent to the metropolitan area from country areas ... only to be basically given an aspirin, put in a cab, put in an ambulance and sent back home again on the same day.

“What hasn’t been addressed is what they’re there for in the first place.”

At some stage, he hoped the council would prove that Murray Bridge deserved more adequate facilities for locals who were fighting drug, alcohol or mental health problems.

“We’ll try very hard to achieve that outcome for our community,” he said.

Murray Bridge was a brave community, he said: “we will face our issues”.

The Flinders University study was funded by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.