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WA Government Meth Plan positive but action needed now, psychiatrists say

09 May 2019
The Western Australian Branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP WA Branch) welcomes the announcement by Premier Mark McGowan of the investment of $42.5 million in addressing the harm caused by methamphetamine.

The RANZCP WA Branch Chair, Dr Helen McGowan, praised the commitment to treatment services in the north of the state, including the development of an alcohol and other drug youth service in the Kimberley and the North West Drug and Alcohol Support Program. 

Dr McGowan also expressed concern about the continued lack of specialist medical and psychiatric treatment services available to people affected by substance addiction including methamphetamine.

‘Despite the recently announced funding, methamphetamine addicted people, their families and carers, will continue to lack access to specialist medical and psychiatric expertise in the WA Public Health System.’

‘These are crucial elements of any modern comprehensive health service that aims to address the multitude of physical and mental health problems associated with alcohol and drug addictions,’ said Dr McGowan.

The RANZCP WA Branch emphasized that the ready availability of addiction psychiatrists and physicians in all major hospitals is the accepted standard of care in other states across Australia, but not in WA.

‘Western Australia has well-developed counselling services for people in the community seeking treatment for addictions however these services do not meet the needs of those with more serious, risky  and complex conditions, including those people with  psychiatric co-morbidity,’ said Dr McGowan.  

‘Specialist Addiction Psychiatrists can play an instrumental role in the complex assessment, treatment and coordination of care that is required by people addicted to methamphetamines. However the WA Public Health System does not employ a single Addiction Psychiatrist throughout the entire state.’

‘Recent cuts to the training of psychiatrists has also meant that it is no longer possible to train general or specialist addiction psychiatrists in publicly funded health, mental health or alcohol and other drugs treatment services.

This impairs the health system’s capacity to develop comprehensive treatment plans and services for people and their families in desperate need of expert acute and rehabilitation care.’

The government has announced funding for planning for safe places for compulsory critical intervention but this stops short of calling for compulsory treatment.

The WA Branch recognises that the 10 crisis-care beds to be developed in Midland may become a trial site for compulsory treatment in the future.

The RANZCP WA Branch however cautions that there is poor evidence that compulsory addiction treatments are effective and calls on the Government to prioritise the development of voluntary services, ensuring that individuals who are seeking treatment are able to access the services expertise they need, when and where they need them.

ENQUIRIES: To speak further with RANZCP WA Branch Chair, Dr Helen McGowan, or WA Representative of the RANZCP Faculty of Addictions Psychiatry Dr Matt Coleman please contact Sarah Carr at or +61 437 315 911