ECHUCA’S Rosemary Jones has been at the frontline as the drug ice has ripped through the twin towns, stealing children and destroying families.
It has swept the region so quickly and efficiently it is difficult to pinpoint when or how it even started.
But after listening to so many parents or carers of ice addicts, Rosemary understands how relentless the drug is.
It does not discriminate and it does not loosen its grip when it has hold of somebody.
It’s why Rosemary says support for parents or carers of addicts is so paramount.
And it’s why Rosemary and the late Trish Deledio founded their support service four years ago.
‘‘We were having forums for ice and it was identified then that the parents were alone and there was nothing for them,” she said.
‘‘We realised they were isolated. So after that forum there was a meeting and the support group was formed.’’
Back then the group was attracting up to 15 people every fortnight.
‘‘Members are able to come and go depending on what is happening in their lives at the time,’’ Rosemary said.
‘‘Once you’ve been in the group for a while instead of having just myself to rely on you can start to rely on other members.
‘‘Suddenly you’ve got a network instead of just one facilitator.’’
Generally speaking, impacted families are from Echuca-Moama but Rosemary said there were ‘‘no boundaries’’ as to who could attend the meetings.
‘‘A lot of people have formed friendships that will go on long after the service ceases,’’ Rosemary said.
‘‘We’ve had people join our group who have sat alone for four or five years because they haven’t been able to talk to anyone.
‘‘Their child is on ice and they totally isolate themselves.’’
Rosemary has tried to educate herself every way she can so when someone needs her she is more than just an ear; she can provide viable strategies for families or carers or at least point them in the right direction.
Rosemary said ice users come from every economic background.
‘‘It’s not poor parenting but that’s how parents feel,’’ she said.
‘‘I’ve spent hours talking to an ice user and I got a massive insight into the drug. It had nothing to do with their parent or what they did or didn’t have.
‘‘And the reason they take it is to feel numb, it’s not for the high.
‘‘I get it. When life gets hard it would be good to feel numb but they forget that it will be there tomorrow.’’
Rosemary said parents or carers needed to understand that when their children who are on ice say something hurtful, it is not the person they unconditionally love speaking — it’s the drug.
‘‘When they stand in front of their parents they do not see their mother or father. It’s just a person that’s stopping them from getting money to buy ice.’’
In terms of addressing the ice issue, Rosemary said it wasn’t just about rehab facilities.
‘‘If we got the problem before the kids took the drugs we wouldn’t need as many rehabs,’’ she said.
‘‘Often these children have underlying issues, sometimes mental health problems; that should be addressed before they know what drugs are.
‘‘And if there is a problem it’s important to get them the help they need.
‘‘They decide (to go to rehab) when they are coming down and are at rock bottom and if you can’t get them then you lose them to the streets and it will be six months before they are in that state again.’’
Rosemary said people were assessed over the phone as to whether rehab is needed.
‘‘But of course a drug user isn’t going to always say ‘Yes, I need help, I need to go to rehab’, on the phone,’’ she said.