The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has secured $3 million of Federal Government funding to support the development of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in Victoria’s east.
Mr Chester said the $3 million allocation had been made towards the construction of the Hope Restart Centre on around 20 acres of farmland adjoining the Princes Highway at Lucknow, near Bairnsdale.
People from the state’s east seeking residential rehabilitation, particularly those from the Latrobe Valley, Wellington, Bass Coast, West Gippsland, South Gippsland and East Gippsland, will have an alternative to going to Melbourne or Canberra for help.
“This community-driven project will help to meet a desperate need in Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley for residential rehabilitation beds,” Mr Chester said.
“The scourge of drugs like ice is having a major impact on our region and there is a shortage of readily available help for those affected.
“Most people in Gippsland would have a friend, family member, or know someone who has been impacted by drug and alcohol addiction. People want all levels of government to take action.
“I want to congratulate the community group which has driven this project to this stage and I will be supporting their efforts to secure matching funding from the State Government and their community fundraising campaign.
“I am proud to be able to announce a contribution on behalf of the Federal Government to help ensure this project is a reality.”
East Gippsland Shire Council last month granted a planning permit for the construction of the centre. Today’s funding announcement means the group now has almost half of the money it needs to complete stage one.
Mr Chester said the professional health services would be provided by a recognised drug rehabilitation service, and connect with local front-line health services.
“On completion of stage one, this centre will provide 34 beds. It will give hope to families that residential rehabilitation is not beyond their reach,” Mr Chester said.
“This project is being undertaken in partnership with Odyssey House, which will provide therapeutic services. It is driven by a passionate group of East Gippsland locals who want to make a difference.”
Peter and Margaret Down of Bairnsdale came up with the idea for the Hope Restart Centre in November 2015 and met with Odyssey House in May the next year.
“After we met with Odyssey, we came away very excited and thought this dream could become a reality,” Mrs Down said. “It’s really unbelievable that we have come to this stage as quickly as we have.
“Nearly everyone you talk to knows someone who has been impacted by drug or alcohol abuse and it’s something we need to tackle as a community.”
Mr Down said the success of the project to date was due to the support they’ve received from the community.
“I nearly cried when I heard we had secured such a large contribution from the Federal Government,” Mr Down said.
“I’ve always said that it’s the community that will make this project happen. The project has a high level of support and that has made the difference. People are willing to be involved and they are making this happen. We are just the facilitators.”
Mr Chester said the centre had been welcomed by the members of the community including health workers, educators, community leaders and those who know someone or a family impacted by drug or alcohol addiction.
“Bairnsdale is the ideal location for a facility of this type and has strong health, education and service sectors that can work with the centre,” Mr Chester.
“This centre will be a place where people can seek help in peaceful surroundings and remain within reach of family and friends. The rural environment will help clients to recover and re-group before reconnecting with the community.”
There are currently no other residential drug rehabilitation centres proposed for Gippsland.