Shay Hodder hasn’t used methamphetamine for 18 months and is reunited with her family.
- The NT government will cut about $2 million in funding for a rehabilitation program
- A former program participant says the program turned her life around
- The government says it will continue to offer support through other programs
But she’s worried others recovering from addiction will not receive the second chance she got, because the Northern Territory government is cutting $2 million in funding to a rehabilitation program for people on parole and on bail.
“There’s a lot of people out there who need help,” she said.
“There’s a lot of broken families that need to get back together … it’s not fair on us, it’s not fair on the community.”
Ms Hodder believed she would have ended up in jail if she had not been able to participate in the government-funded Family Circles COMMIT program delivered by the FORWAARD Aboriginal Corporation, which is one of the organisations affected by the funding cuts.
The program provides mediation and education to recovering addicts and families, so they can rebuild a relationship and strategies to support each other during rehabilitation.
“There’s clients who want to come in here, wanting to get better,” said Ms Hodder, who is now a caseworker with FORWAARD.
The government’s cuts to the program have been criticised by welfare groups and the chair of the NT Parole Board, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Southwood, who said they would frustrate efforts to reduce incarceration rates and improve community safety.
Funding cuts confirmed
The government has confirmed about $2 million will be cut from the program by June, with almost half of the funding ending this month.
It said in a statement, the decision was based on a review of the number of beds and services used by participants in the program and further funding would be considered during the 2021 budget cabinet process.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Selena Uibo said people on parole would have access to other support when the programs end and existing clients would finish their treatments in June.
“People eligible for COMMIT will continue to be offered support through the Department of Health’s alcohol and other drugs programs,” she said.
But in a letter to the Alcohol and Other Drugs Association NT (AADANT) last December, Health Minister Natasha Fyles acknowledged the demand on alcohol treatment services and the pressure that would be placed on bed availability with COMMIT funding cuts.
AADANT executive officer Peter Burnheim said a budgeted evaluation of the COMMIT program was never completed.
He was concerned there were no other specialised services for parole clients.
FORWAARD Aboriginal Corporation will lose almost $600,0000 under the cuts, meaning the Family Circles program will end this month and nine rehabilitation beds will close by the end of June.
“[That’s] about 38 per cent of our total programming … it’s a real shame … there is nowhere quite as unique as the Family Circles program.”
Mr Versteegh said a letter from Ms Uibo stated the organisation’s programs were successful but the government had other funding priorities.
In December, Justice Southwood raised concerned about cuts to COMMIT in a four-page statement, saying 278 people had been successfully released since the program began in 2017.
“If COMMIT has meant that 278 offenders … spent 12 months less time in prison [which is a fair anecdotal estimate] that represents a saving of $13 million over three years,” he said.
“The reduction in the capacity of non-government organisations to provide residential rehabilitation programs … will once again add to the very high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory,” he said.
Road to recovery
Ms Hodder said she wanted to speak publicly about her own road to recovery to highlight concern over the funding cuts.
She said life recovering from addiction more than a year ago left her isolated and some of the people closest to her didn’t understand her struggles.
Ms Hodder said it was challenging confronting her past traumas as part of recovery.
She said her COMMIT caseworker helped her reconnect with her family so they could understand “what alcohol and drugs do to you.”