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Alcohol and other drugs addiction is a national priority, but social inequality is the root cause

YSAS welcomes additional Federal Government support to intervene early and address alcohol and other drug addiction issues, but urges the Morrison Coalition Government to consider further steps necessary to stamp out inequality and social disadvantage for young Australians and their families.

The 2022-23 Federal Budget promises a brighter future for young Australians who require early intervention and critical health services to prevent suicide, provide more mental health support and treat alcohol and other drug addiction; however, it’s clear that the social determinants of health and wellbeing have been left out of the equation in this years’ list of Budget priorities.

After an unprecedented 2 years following the COVID-19 pandemic, youth homelessness, mental ill-health and poverty have skyrocketed. This has fuelled greater social inequality and worsened health and wellbeing outcomes for young people already experiencing serious disadvantage, leaving many young Australians with little opportunity and less choices.

Andrew Bruun, YSAS CEO said that the recognition of alcohol and other drugs addiction as a national priority and the guarantee for free life-saving overdose opioid medication Naloxone was welcome, but encouraged the Federal Government to go further in addressing the root causes of social inequality for long-term, sustainable drug and alcohol sector reform.

“Every young Australian has hopes, dreams and ambitions for their future, but to realise them, we must provide the necessary supports and opportunity.

“Social factors that intrench inequality and serious disadvantage, like the lack of secure housing and insufficient income support could have been addressed in this years’ Federal Budget and are a missed opportunity to prevent harm at the root cause.

“We see young people overcome immense challenges with strength and resilience. But we owe it to every young Australian to give them the best chance to pave a different path in life.” Bruun said.    

For young people with substance use issues, highlights in this year’s Federal Budget include:

  • $648.6 million additional investment in the Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Reform Plan,
  • $343.6 million to continue the rollout of the National Ice Action Strategy (NIAS) and critical AOD treatment services and prevention programs,
  • $19.6 million to expand the national Take Home Naloxone (THN) program at no-cost, without prescription to avoid unnecessary overdose, and
  • $409,000 to reduce stigma toward young people with mental ill-health and promote a mental health workforce for secondary and tertiary students.

YSAS echoes calls from AOD services across the nation, including the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association for a National AOD Governance Structure to work together to coordinate national AOD policy, planning and strategy with State services and agencies.

Following a decade of cuts to community services, it’s critical that the next term of Federal Government focus on permanent solutions to addressing poverty and inequality. YSAS supports the Australian Council of Social Services in its position to reverse tax cuts that are diverting public money from community services.

— Ends — 

About YSAS (Youth Support + Advocacy Service)

The Youth Support + Advocacy Service (YSAS) is Australia’s largest, youth-specific community service organisation. Operating since 1998 as Victoria’s flagship Youth Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) service, YSAS now employs over 400 skilled staff across 19 sites in metropolitan and regional Victoria. While YSAS continues to provide effective Youth AOD services, the organisation also has extensive experience in providing young people and families with services that support improved mental health and meaningful community participation.

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