Federal MP Darren Chester says the first residential drug rehabilitation centre in Gippsland should be built near Bairnsdale because it is more advanced than other proposals.
Mr Chester has urged regional leaders, including health professionals, to back the Hope Restart Centre at Lucknow.
“We all agree there is an urgent need for a residential drug rehabilitation centre in Gippsland,” Mr Chester said.
“The quickest way to start saving lives and reducing harm from illicit drugs in Gippsland is for everyone to support the Hope Centre project and, as a united community, work to secure State Government funding for this project.
“The community-led Hope Centre project has council planning approval and building permission and the allocation of $3 million in Federal Government funding, which the State Government could match to allow this project to begin.
“I am aware of the push for a residential rehabilitation centre to be located in the Latrobe Valley.
“I see no reason why there cannot be two residential rehabilitation centres in Gippsland at some stage in the future, but the most important consideration must be which project can be up and running as soon as possible to reduce the impact of drugs on our community and save lives.
“The Hope Centre is well advanced. It has secured the involvement of Odyssey House in Melbourne and the support of various businesses and philanthropic organisations.
“It would take at least two years to get this half-formed idea for a rehabilitation centre for the Valley to the same stage the Hope Centre has now reached, so we need to concentrate our efforts to get the Hope Centre up and running now.
“Every local council in Gippsland has endorsed the Hope Centre solution.
“Gippsland needs to be one voice to urge the State Government to put its money on the table, so the Hope Centre and Odyssey House can begin transforming lives.”