Ice – no detox without jail

State’s most disadvantaged youth must be in custody before they can access a detox program, nurse tells inquiry.

At least half of detainees at Orana Juvenile Justice Centre in Dubbo say they used ice and 65 per cent admitted committing crime in order to get drugs, Orana’s nursing unit manager Cindy Wilson told the ice inquiry.

Orana holds up to 30 boys and young men aged between 11 and 19. About 85 per cent are Aboriginal – mainly from the Central and Far West of NSW. 

Ms Wilson said the centre focuses on mental health and drug and alcohol treatment.

However, it provides “very few” drug and alcohol services compared to mental health services, she said.

Around 2013–2014, the service noticed a “big jump” in the number of detainees reporting using amphetamines.

She said Orana used to have an AOD (alcohol and other drug) counsellor on staff but a counsellor was no longer available.

She added: “We are currently the only place in the area where young people can access a detox program, but they need to be arrested and brought into custody to access a program.

“I would love to see some detox services available to kids so (they) could access rehabilitation services before they are brought into custody.

“From my work with young people, I think there are kids who would be open to this prospect, especially if it is an alternative to ending up here.”

Detainees are marginalised and disadvantaged

In her witness statement, Ms Wilson described Orana detainees as “the most marginalised and disadvantaged children in the state”.

She said most detainees have at least one psychological or mental health issue and “a very high proportion” have either borderline or a mild-to-moderate intellectual disability.

The centre had only one registered nurse on duty per day from approximately 7 am to 5 pm and a visiting GP once a week for up to four hours.

After hours, a Sydney-based nurse manager could be phoned for advice.

Anyone who presented with a flag for mental health was referred to a clinical nurse consultant available three days per week.

“This process could be improved, as we only identify risks and do not provide any intensive counselling or therapy,” she said.

Ms Wilson said Aboriginal detainees were more likely to talk to Aboriginal staff members.

“It would be helpful to have more Aboriginal staff but this may be difficult to implement with our current staffing arrangements (i.e., one registered nurse on each day).”

She said young people who arrived at Orana still under the effects of ice could be very aggressive for up to a few days.

“After a period of time, we have to be very careful not to be lulled into a false sense of security because they may sleep for days but after a week of proper withdrawal, outbursts of aggression and impulsivity may occur. Young people might punch a wall or door or anything really.”