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Thursday, 13 November 2008
Page: 10954

Dr JENSEN (9:47 AM) —I wish to raise the issue of Dr George O’Neil’s Naltrexone clinic and the dire need there is for urgent funding approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. As I mentioned in May this year, Dr O’Neil’s clinic does a magnificent job in producing implants, administering them and providing the vital follow-up services to help drug addicts and alcoholics reform their whole lives and become functioning members of society.

The Minister for Health and Ageing has provided information on the current level of federal funding, which is about three- quarters of a million dollars. However, Dr O’Neil estimates that it costs $2 million to $3 million a year to produce the implants and treat the patients who come to his clinic not just from around Western Australia but from all over the country. Therefore, while the current federal funding is welcome it does not come anywhere near the true cost which Dr O’Neil and his staff have been underwriting for some years. But this much dedication to improving the lives of others does have its limits. Obviously, the approval of the TGA for the treatment is vital and hopefully will be achieved shortly. However, more funding is essential.

According to the government’s first hundred days orgy of self-congratulation, the government announced $50 million in funding to each state and territory to provide additional drug and alcohol rehabilitation services to Indigenous communities. Given that many programs have not had the tremendous success rate that Dr O’Neil has, perhaps the money would be better used replicating Dr O’Neil’s programs. The Indigenous communities could shake off the scourge of substance abuse, the root cause of so many Indigenous problems, and the wider community would have better access to treatment as well. My challenge to the government is to stop thinking like process driven bureaucrats and look at the big picture. Here is a program which is successful, economically responsible and so, given the massive burden of substance abuse to our society, I say: ‘Bite the bullet, Prime Minister. Ensure the program gets the TGA’s seal of approval as soon as possible. Let us save more lives, save more families and communities, save more money from fewer crimes, fewer insurance claims and fewer demands on our health services, especially mental health. Show true leadership and put our money where it is shown it can do the most good.’