Minister knew likely impact of closing Geraldton Sobering Up Centre

Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
Geraldton identity Deborah Green organised a rally late last year protesting the closure of the City's Sobering Up Centre. She is pictured here with Member for the Agricultural Region Martin Aldridge.
Camera IconGeraldton identity Deborah Green organised a rally late last year protesting the closure of the City's Sobering Up Centre. She is pictured here with Member for the Agricultural Region Martin Aldridge. Credit: Martin Aldridge MLC

An email exchange between Health Minister Roger Cook and the Health Department shows he was well aware of the likely consequences of closing Geraldton Sobering Up Centre.

In a bid to rein-in spending, the WA Government refused to renew a contract with Hope Community Services, which had run the centre until New Year’s Eve last year.

Member for the Agricultural Region Martin Aldridge has obtained the November 17 emails and other documents after making a Freedom of Information request.

Under the heading “Anticipated impact of the closure”, the email contained three dot points:

“Potential impact on the Geraldton hospital ED (emergency department) with presentations of high levels of intoxication.

“If there is an increase in ED presentations then this could increase number of referrals to Community Alcohol and Drug service.

“Increased utilisation of emergency services e.g. police, ambulance.”

The WA Country Health Service chief executive approved the email.

Mr Aldridge said this showed Mr Cook knew closing Geraldton’s Sobering Up Centre would have a negative impact on service providers, alcoholics and drug addicts.

Although Mr Cook made no comment about the email exchange, he said emergency department attendances with an alcohol or drug-use principal diagnosis had not received any “material changes” since the service closed.

“Data reported to the Mental Health Commission indicates there has been no increase in referrals to the Community Alcohol and Drug Service,” he said.

“In addition, other local drug services have not reported any additional pressure on their services or adverse experiences relating to the closure of the Geraldton Sobering Up Centre.

“The Mental Health Commission has continued to liaise with local service providers.”

The Police Union has said officers now spend more time waiting at the Geraldton Health Campus for drunks to be assessed as medically fit for custody.

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