The federal government’s big-spending budget has allocated more money to tackle the rising use of crystal meth and has confirmed a funding boost for a national suicide prevention program that covers the gay community.
But community groups warn it is too early to say if the increased spending will directly benefit gay men and lesbians, and have expressed disappointment the budget does not do more to help people living with HIV.
The budget, released this week, allocates about $35 million over the next four years to tackle emerging trends in illicit drug use, including the growing use of party drug crystal meth.
The money will fund a national drugs campaign and more training to address problems such as crystal meth-related psychosis.
The government will also spend nearly $22 million over the next four years increasing awareness of the link between illicit drugs and mental illness.
Paul Dillon from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre told Sydney Star Observer the renewed focus on methamphetamines was terrific but it remained to be seen if the funding boost would reach the gay community.
Sometimes it takes quite a while for that sort of money to filter down, Dillon said.
Will it end up filtering into programs for the community members who are affected by this?
ACON chief executive Stevie Clayton said the government needed to run a series of targeted strategies rather than a broad national campaign when dealing with drugs such as crystal meth.
There’s a need for them to consider different populations in the community, and especially the gay and lesbian community, Clayton told the Star.
The budget confirms increased spending on rural mental health, counselling services and the National Suicide Prevention Strategy, which covers the gay and lesbian community.
As reported in last week’s Star, ACON has joined a new coalition that will try to improve mental health services for rural gay communities.
But the problem, and it’s a proviso with [all the mental health funding] is how accessible and appropriate those services will be to people from our community, Clayton said of the federal budget.
If they’re just putting them into hospitals and into area health services, then we’re probably not going to see many people in our communities accessing them.
AIDS groups are disappointed the budget does not give more to the HIV-positive community.
There’s no change to Centrelink payments that we’ve noticed, and that was an opportunity in a time of large surplus, Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations president Ian Rankin told the Star.
But obviously tax cuts will be enjoyed by many of our constituents.
Stevie Clayton said the budget’s one-off payments to people receiving a Carer Payment or a Carer Allowance could help those looking after HIV-positive people but was a drop in the ocean compared to how much they’re out of pocket.
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor David Scamell said the government should have included the gay and lesbian community more in its family-friendly budget.
This budget is supposedly about families and it’s supposedly about ensuring that the government continues to protect and allow for all types of families throughout society, yet we’re kept out of the picture, he said.