An application was filed by Glenelg residents on October 17 that challenges Health and Wellbeing Minister Chris Picton’s decision to declare a 12-bed therapeutic facility “essential infrastructure” and “Crown Project of State Significance” – a move that bypasses the local council.
Resident and former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Howard Government Chris Gallus argued that there was “incredible sympathy” for potential clients but Glenelg was the wrong place for the Uniting Communities therapeutic facility.
“We are hoping people will support us against the abuse of process,” said Gallus, a former Liberal member for Hindmarsh. “We believe the rehabilitees need a better facility, with a proper backyard, proper open space where they can gather that isn’t right on the street.”
Residents in the seaside suburb are handing out leaflets asking for help to raise $40,000 to fund the court action after campaigning for months against the Uniting Communities plan currently with the State Commission Assessment Panel.
Uniting Communities has told residents it successfully operates 12 residential rehabilitation sites across the state and urged the community to “be mindful that the voices of those who will benefit from this program have not been heard in the debate when they stand to be the most impacted of all”.
Clients would undergo “detox” and be assessed for suitability before being given a place at the facility and staff would be on-site 24 hours a day, with Uniting Communities saying it was disheartening seeing ongoing delays impact people “on their recovery journey”.
However, Gallus argued that the building owned by Uniting Communities was an inappropriate location for the facility as it is near St Peter’s Woodlands Primary School and families living in the street.
In the past four days, the GoFundMe page has raised just over $1500 of its $40,000 target, with the group saying any excess funds would be donated to the Operation Flinders charity.
“Glenelg community residents need your help to pay legal costs to stop the Minister for Health and Wellbeing (Chris Picton) and the Minister for Planning (Nick Champion) issuing a contract for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in (Glenelg),” the fundraising page said.
“This GoFundMe is to raise funds to ensure the ministers act lawfully and rehabilitees are provided with a facility that follows due process and helps them recover.”
Gallus acknowledged there were some concerns over property prices being affected by the facility but the main concerns were about the types of clients and the appropriateness of the building based in a suburban street.
She claimed the suburb was not identified as the right place for a rehabilitation facility in original tender documents.
Uniting Communities chief executive officer Simon Schrapel was aware of the application for judicial review and said that “above all, we hope for a speedy resolution of this matter”.
“This is a much-needed service for the community, and we hope the review will enable us to deliver on our commitment,” he said.
“It’s disheartening to see the impact of these ongoing delays for people on their recovery journey. Every barrier to this project further denies South Australians the opportunity to seek treatment for dependency issues. Supporting our community by delivering this life-changing service is our top priority.”
Schrapel said the organisation’s focus was on “delivering the best support possible for people taking proactive, voluntary steps towards recovery from dependency issues”.
“We have provided a comprehensive plan to manage any perceived risks and interactions with the community,” he said.
“Uniting Communities has extensive experience in operating similar health facilities across South Australia (that) have shown no adverse impacts on neighbours or local communities.”
In response to the action, Picton said “there’s been no end of explanation, assurances given by Uniting Communities to the local community” and the government would continue on the path to deliver the service.
“Rehabilitation facilities are across Adelaide right now operating without controversy, without issues, without many neighbours knowing they are there,” Picton said.
“We believe it’s appropriate, we believe it has the appropriate safeguards in place.”
Having places for people to get drug and alcohol rehabilitation was an “important component” in providing health care, Picton said.
South Australian Network of Drug and Alcohol Services executive officer Michael White said there were about 10,000 people across the state each year undergoing treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, with demand for up to 40,000 treatment places.
He was concerned the nature of the debate about the proposed Glenelg facility would deter South Australians from seeking help including in the Glenelg area that “actually has a high level of unmet demand for treatment”.
“People have a right to privacy in their health treatment … and the way people have gone about stigmatising the people who will be using this service could have a significant impact on them choosing to access treatment,” White said.
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