Gold Coast Drug Council Inc - PO Box 2655, Burleigh MDC QLD 4220 - Phone: (07) 5535 4302 - Fax: (07) 5576 2512

BANJARA MEDICAL CENTRE – OFFICIAL OPENING SPEECH
BY ANDREW MOLONEY, PRESIDENT

The Gold Coast Drug Council Inc. was a successful applicant of a tender through the Dept. of Health & Ageing Amphetamine Type Stimulant Grants Program for a one off capital grant in 2008 to support the treatment of Amphetamine type substance misuse and its complications, and in particular the mental health conditions that come from misusing the drug.

The grant was utilized for a capital project to expand capacity of the Gold Coast Drug Council for service provision, and to provide facilities for a medical service and support team to treat both drug misuse and the co-existence of mental health conditions.

The building has been named the Banjara Medical Centre. With the assistance of Billie Edwards, the Cultural Liasion Officer from Kalwun, we researched a suitable name from local indigenous language, and the name Banjara was chosen as it means “good/well”.

It had become clear that increasing numbers of clients presenting to our various programs presented with amphetamine type stimulants as a primary or secondary drug of concern, and that we needed to continue to expand our capacity to service this target group. 2008/2009 statistics showed that 31% of residential clients identified amphetamines as a primary drug of concern; and another 25% identified amphetamines as a secondary drug of concern. Statistics from the new Complex Needs Assessment Team, which are housed in the new building, indicate that more than 50% of their client group with complex needs, indicate Amphetamines as a primary drug of choice.

Although our teams primary goal of treatment is to address our clients Substance Use Disorder, in order to do so effectively they must take into account the presenting issues and in particular the clients presenting mental health issues.

From our experience many of those presenting clients have other medical/health issues as a result of the drug use. It became clear that treatment/counseling support was dependant on having available a GP to address the medical concerns and make the referrals to specialists where necessary. Many of our clients from the various programs require a specialist psychiatrist.

This capital grant from the Commonwealth has allowed us to build a specialist medical centre and expanded our capacity for the provision of treatment services to address substance use and co-existing mental health conditions.

We are now able to offer a general medical practice and a psychiatric service to compliment the specialist psychologists, nurse and counselors to provide an evidence based bio-psycho-social treatment approach to all of our clients. We are also pleased to have a Psychiatric Registrar on board from Qld Health, as part of an Expanded Settings Training Placement, funded by Dept. Health & Ageing.

Over 70% of presenting clients to the GCDC programs have a co-existing mental health condition, or comorbidity ranging from mood disorders, anxiety, personality disorders, bi-polar and psychosis. Psychosis is one of the unwanted side effects of amphetamine misuse commonly known as drug induced pychosis, and it is important to treat it quickly involving the holistic care of the medicos so it doesn’t lead to a more permanent disability.

The upstairs level of the new Medical Centre has also allowed us to house value-adding treatment services to support the medical service downstairs. There is the Complex Needs Assessment Panel staff - who work with at least 10 other Government and non-government agencies – many of which join us here today – to case manage the most complex of young clients who are known as Gap clients - suffering from multiple social/family/housing issues, drug & alcohol issues, and severe mental health conditions. The medical team is able to support the panel so in effect we are supporting many other agencies as well as individuals through the provision of medical services. Other teams housed in the building include the new Youth Outreach Drug & Alcohol team or YODA; and the Drug Court team who were previously located in demountable offices in the carpark; and the Inter Urban Arts team who have been around for nearly 10 years, and never really had a space they could call home.

We are also currently close to finalizing negotiations with the Gold Coast Health Service District to co-locate the newly established Early Psychosis Team in the Banjara Medical Centre. We believe this co-location will create a symbiotic relationship which will further enhance the integration of services between the Gold Coast Mental Health Service and the Gold Coast Drug Council, and will further enhance our capacity for early intervention for a shared target group.

This has all been made possible by the funding support of the Dept. Health & Ageing, enabling us to build this wonderful clinic you see before you today – and for that we are grateful.

The Dept. of Health & Ageing have focused on co-morbidity (that is the co-occurrence of drug & alcohol issues and mental illness) for many years now, providing funding for staff positions to co-ordinate and provide treatment services specific to this client group; and also through the Improved Services Project funded since the beginning of 2008 specifically to improve the quality of services for comorbid clients.

On behalf of the staff and clients of the Gold Coast Drug Council we would like to sincerely thank the Dept. Health & Ageing for their particular focus on improving services for this particular target group. Their funding and support has without a doubt been extremely helpful in improving our knowledge, skills and competence. In addition, the Dept. of Health & Ageing has also provided a manual outlining the evidence based guidelines on the management of co-occuring drug & alcohol and mental health in alcohol and drug settings. They commissioned the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre University of NSW to do this work. This is an excellent resource to support our practice.

Once again, a big thank you to the Dept. of Health & Ageing for the capital funding for the Banjara Medical Centre, and for their ongoing funding and support of our service delivery. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Margaret May MP, our local federal member, not only for joining us today, but for her advocacy and support of the Gold Coast Drug Council during her several terms as a local Federal member. I believe she is retiring soon, and congratulate her on her achievements during her time in office, and for the way she has represented her local electorate. We wish her all the best for the future.