You see them everywhere. The young man always alone on his bike, pedalling at lightning speed, manic about avoiding your eyes. The young couple who argued loudly, daily until brutal violence brought a sudden silence. A woman standing in the street, mascara running down her face as she shakes and scratches her arms. Those who frequent the trendy cafes and bars of our nation see them every day – the people who are high on crystal meth. Ice is the drug of our time. NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione says ice had been linked to “bizarre and grisly deaths” in recent weeks, labelling the drug as a “monster” that turns people violent.

A few weeks ago a 22-year-old man was jailed for 14 years for pouring petrol over his pregnant partner and setting her alight. At the time of the offence, he was using about one gram of ice — currently worth about $500 — a day. In 2001, when heroin was more prevalent and needle-stick injuries a public health concern, supervised injecting centres were put to trial, providing users a safe, sanitary place to inject. The controversial strategy, stemming from the Howard government’s “harm minimisation” policies of the 1990s, caused a fierce debate and it wasn’t until 2010 that the idea became permanent in Sydney. When the dust settled, it was found the centres generated more than 9500 referrals to health and social welfare services in 2011.

Today, the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) says ice has overtaken heroin as the primary drug of choice — and it’s on the rise. The ACC report also suggested that law enforcement alone could not confront the ice problem. The two drugs are different in terms of their consequences and the way they are consumed: heroin is injected, while ice is usually smoked or snorted, but it’s the violent nature associated with ice users that is most remarkable. A 2014 study published in the journal Addiction found 60 per cent of ice users were violent when they used the drug heavily. Crystal meth is also more addictive. So, faced with a new problem, how do we stop it? Will it again take a controversial solution?

Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital clinical director of alcohol and drug services, Nadine Ezard, says instead of creating a “moral panic” about the drug, users should be encouraged to seek help. She says addicts can be rehabilitated. The steps to recovery are difficult, but not insurmountable. After accepting that a person is addicted, detoxification, counselling, and support groups are all effective measures that can be put into place to rehabilitate an addict. There is effective treatment available. But resources are strapped. Last week, it was reported there were about 100 people on the waiting list seeking treatment at St Vincent’s, the closest hospital in Sydney to Kings Cross and Surry Hills.

Undoubtedly, the best “cure’’ is prevention — a focus on education, advertising campaigns and socio-economic issues that help prevent the use of ice. But for those already in its grip, perhaps what is needed is a safe place where they can seek help and be referred into treatment. Are we ready for ice ingestion rooms? The idea of locking dozens of users in a room together while they undergo ice-induced violent episodes is hardly a sensible idea, so how do we create a safe space for them to find assistance? Despite their reputation, ice addicts are not monsters. And you only need to see the desperation on their faces to know they need help.

Source: Compiled by APN from media article

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The case of a boy with special needs being put in a cage in a Canberra school classroom is not an isolated one, the national peak body which represents children and young people with disability says. The principal at the school has been suspended after the cage-like structure was found in a classroom, apparently used to house the autistic student. “Unfortunately, Children with Disability Australia (CDA) is receiving an increasing number of reports of students with disability being subjected to restrictive practices in schools,” CDA chief executive Stephanie Gotlib said. “This increased incidence is a clear indication that the system is not adequately meeting the needs of students with disability.”

Opposition education spokeswoman Kate Ellis says the reports of the autistic boy in the Canberra school are deeply disturbing. The schoolboy with special needs was allegedly placed in a two-metre metal enclosure by his Canberra public school, sparking an urgent investigation. Ms Ellis said reports of mistreatment of students with disability were “shocking and deeply disturbing”. “The abuse or neglect of students with disability is absolutely unacceptable,” she said in a statement. “All students — including those with disability — deserve to be recognised as learners and supported to achieve their best.”

ACT Education Minister Joy Burch announced an investigation into the Canberra incident, telling reporters she was “immensely disappointed disturbed and quite frankly disgusted” by the incident. The cage-like “withdrawal place” — erected from pool fencing and measuring 2 metres by 2 metres within the classroom — was built on March 10 and was dismantled on March 27. “Words can’t put into place the absolute disappointment and horror I have that, in our schools, anyone would consider a structure of this nature in any way, shape or form acceptable,” Ms Burch said. “Whether it was in the school for 17 days, 17 minutes or 17 seconds, it had no place there.”

The school would not be identified in order to protect the wellbeing of the child”, Ms Burch said. The school’s principal has been removed during the investigation, and is now performing administrative duties within the ACT Education Directorate. It is unknown how many students were placed in the structure. Meanwhile, parents of other students at the school have been informed of the structure’s removal and the extra support available. Education Directorate director-general Diane Joseph described the episode as “an isolated incident of very poor decision-making”. She said “withdrawal spaces” for disruptive students were commonplace in ACT schools but usually comprise quiet reading corners or other safe places in a classroom.

The inquiry will be led by an independent investigator, although their terms of reference have not been yet been set. The Education Directorate said the investigation would uncover whether this is a systemic issue across multiple schools. Ms Burch insisted this was a “one-off, appalling” decision by one school, and “doesn’t reflect the quality of the environment that we have across our schools”. Two specialist teachers with expertise in disability and behaviour management have been deployed to the school. The complaint was brought to the ACT’s Education Directorate after the child’s family complained to the ACT Human Rights Commission.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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A Catholic psychologist has been banned from practising until further notice because of his public statements opposed to homosexual relationships. The long-running case has demonstrated how practitioners can have their careers cut short if they make controversial statements in public. Philip Pocock has been suspended without any complaints received by patients. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) restricts health professionals to protect the public. The 58-year-old Canberra man had been working under severe restrictions put in place last year by the Psychology Board – which sits under AHPRA – but  records show he has now been shut down at least temporarily while the board assesses professional reports about him.

Part of his earlier restrictions imposed by the board included further education and an assessment by a psychiatrist. On Wednesday Mr Pocock said this was like being sent to a gulag for re-indoctrination. He said he was considering leaving the profession because he did not want his free speech curtailed. “I said I’ll resign my registration because I feel I’ve got the right to make public statements,” Mr Pocock said. “I’ve never actually proselytized to patients but I do proselytize generally. “I explain my position if patients want to hear it. The Psychology Board is saying you can’t make public statements as a psychologist.

“They’re saying you’re bringing the reputation of psychology into disrepute because 95% of us support homosexuality or don’t believe in god.” Complaints about Mr Pocock came from within the profession following the 2013 ACT election when he unsuccessfully attempted to become an MLA. He said he was aware many people thought his views were extreme. He has called for laws against homosexual sex and for the legal right to discriminate against homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals. In the media he said sodomy and masturbation were destructive distortions of sexuality, that adultery by a wife destroyed the sexual relationship between husband and wife in a way that could not be remedied by counselling.

In August the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) ruled Mr Pocock could not have his public utterances regarded as “personal views” if they were accompanied by declarations he was a psychologist. The tribunal ruled Mr Pocock was entitled to reasonable expression of his religious faith in the course of his clinical practise “though where such faith led to constraints on standard practise it was appropriate to advise patients in advance of such limitations, or if they arose in the midst of a clinical encounter, to ensure continuity of care by appropriate referral”. ACAT’s decision said there were considerable perils facing a tribunal too ready to make adverse inferences about clinical practise from a registered professional’s public utterances.

It also said it was reasonably foreseeable that the public statements made by Mr Pocock would cause offence and or harm to vulnerable persons and that this would be exacerbated by his position and status as a registered psychologist. An additional statement made by one of the presiding members at ACAT said: “Mr Pocock appeared to struggle to separate his religious and biological-scientific views from accepted psychology practise. He also demonstrated little appreciation of his obligations as a psychologist under the practitioner’s code, or of the terms of the code itself”.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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