Plans to turn old Warley Hospital into drug and alcohol rehab centre
A MULTI-MILLION dollar plan to bring a drug and alcohol rehab centre to Phillip Island could be the solution to the area’s growing drug problem.
Expected to house up to 60 patients at any one time, for $288 a night per person, the Hader Group expects their development will grow the Phillip Island economy.
Estimated to have annual running costs of between $4 million and $5 million, Hader Group general manager Jackson Oppy said it’ll add tourism during the off-peak season and denied it would bring drug dealers to the area.
“If I’m a drug dealer, the last place I’m going to turn up to is a drug rehab,” Mr Oppy said at a public meeting on Friday night.
“It’s never happened. Never would happen.”
The meeting was organised by the Phillip Island Medical and Hospital Action Group and its president Peter Paul said it was to ensure people “get the facts first-hand”.
The Hader Group has lodged plans with the Bass Coast Shire Council to turn the old Warley Hospital into a drug and alcohol rehab centre.
To be leased for up to 20 years, Mr Oppy said the centre has strict rules around illicit drugs or alcohol and anyone caught using would be discharged.
He denied that meant patients would be tossed out onto the streets.
The Hader Group’s policy is to transport patients to the nearest train station and Mr Oppy said the closest one was Cranbourne and it could be a $100 or $150 cab charge.
“Our patients can afford that and they’ll pay that.
“And if they can’t, my staff will get in the car and drive them to Cranbourne.
“Morally, I can’t leave someone just wandering the streets of Phillip Island and commercially, it would be suicide. So it’s not going to happen.”
Mr Oppy said they only accept people who have been vetted and genuinely want to get better.
“These patients that are coming to these facilities are not destitute, they are not court-ordered, they’re not out of prison.
“These are people like you and me from good families who have become addicted to a substance of some sort – against their better judgement – who are at a place of treatment trying to get better.”
The centre boasts a 74 per cent success rate of people not using drugs after 90 days in rehab at other locations in Moonee Ponds, Bacchus Marsh and Geelong.
Mr Oppy is a recovered drug and alcohol addict and he’s been sober for more than 20 years.
He and his staff teach people how to remove their reliance on drugs or alcohol, or both.
Most people stay for around three months, and with an average of an 80 per cent occupancy rate, the rehab centre will likely help around 200 people a year.
Mr Oppy said the rehab centre could also make a minimum of two bulk-billing GPs available to the public, seven days a week, until late.
“Every community we’ve gone to, we’ve contributed to in a positive way because we’re not bringing down a party mob, we’re bringing down a bunch of well-meaning people that want to change their lives and contribute.”
The alcohol and drug rehab centre would bring much needed health services to Phillip Island, although Mr Oppy has yet to speak to local GPs.
He maintained they were not there to run anyone out of town.
Patients will be subject to strict conditions, including only allowed out onto the streets with supervision, an 11pm lights-out, and a ban on phones and wallets.
While it does sound similar to a prison, Mr Oppy says people are free to go at any time.
“Is it gonna be a smooth ride? Is it gonna be perfect? No.
“Our patients come to us and we have a very high standard of behaviour, conduct, participation, we’re not a resort.
“You’re not coming here to lounge around on your hospital bed, you’re coming here to participate.”
The Hader Group doesn’t accept sex offenders and will discharge anyone who steals or makes threats.
Mr Oppy doesn’t accept that relapse is part of recovery, and he says people who are addicted are sick and require compassion and forgiveness.
Twice the weekly income
Phillip islanders have an average household income of $947 per week, but at the rehab centre, it’ll cost $288 per night and $2016 per week, per patient.
The fees are not covered by the public health care system, but for some with specialist private health care, it can be fully covered.
The Phillip Island rehab centre would also need a workforce of up to 40 people and to show the effectiveness of the program, the Hader Group hires many of its past patients, giving new patients a role model.
Answering a question from a resident about the benefit to the ageing Phillip Island population for a rehab centre with “boutique” prices, Mr Oppy said patients go bowling, horse riding and complete community service.
“We’re already contributing to the Bass [Coast] community through people who’ve come through our centre.”
“Our clients are not on drugs. They’re on drugs when they arrive, they don’t take any drugs once they’re here.”
Patients do however begin a detox when they arrive, consisting of plenty of sleep – sometimes 20 hours a day – and prescribed Valium, used to treat anxiety and alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
“We’re going to have an army of drug-free, well-slept people that want to contribute to the community,” Mr Oppy said.
Another resident also asked about how patients were monitored.
“Is it possible that someone could jimmy their window open and run out at night? Yeah, it’s possible,” Mr Oppy said.
“Is a staff member going to catch that 100 per cent of the time? No, it’s not.
“But everyone’s drug tested every two days. We would know that’s happening really quickly, and those people would be discharged.”
Asked if he would accept people who came down here looking for help, Mr Oppy said he wouldn’t turn them away.
If the plans are rejected by council, Mr Oppy said he would speak to his business partner and they would look at lodging an appeal through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).