For years former South West resident Angela Olifent had been trying to establish a drug rehabilitation centre in a number of places around Australia.
Ms Olifent worked as an emergency department nurse in WA which exposed her to an increasing number of people being admitted to hospital because of drug use.
She said it was clear there would be a problem in the future and a need for more drug rehabilitation facilities.
“I could see the writing on the wall, culturally young people were starting to think it was normal and okay to take drugs or meth on the weekends,” she said.
“We know there is a huge problem in WA, we know there is a shortage of female beds, we also know the number of women aged from 35 to 60 years using meth is rising.”
Ms Olifent tried to seek support from all levels of government in Australia to establish a rehab centre. She could not find support until she met doctors Harold John and Elizabeth McIntosh from Queensland.
Unfortunately, “Not in my backyard,” was the mantra Ms Olifent heard right around the nation from people who stigmatised addicts needing specialised help to recover from addiction.
Ms Olifent had to go to Indonesia to start a rehab centre. In its first year, the clinic designs individual programs for their patients with a holistic team of medical professionals.
“Culturally, we need to change and destigmatise drug addiction – it is a disease – our clinic recognises that 85 per cent of our patients have a dual diagnosis and a previous psychiatric condition,” she said.
“The problem is we have to make the community realise drug addiction is an illness, it is a disease and we have to treat these people with dignity and give them a second chance.”
Ms Olifent said there was a huge drug problem in the South West which was partly due to the lack of treatment facilities.
WA resident Sally (not her real name) has just returned from Lombok after spending three months at the facility to overcome a five-year meth addiction.
She hit rock bottom when she lost parental control of her children, was couch-surfing, had a car accident and lost everything.
“I had been waiting for six months in Perth to go into rehab, but there was a shortage of women’s beds. I found out through my sister’s friend about Angie’s facility,” she said.
“I thought that would be my best shot rather than waiting in Perth, it was a big thing to go, fear and anxiety set in the morning I left.”
Sally was in Lombok for 13 weeks, each day she underwent intensive counselling, walked up to six kilometres, worked in the kitchen at the facility and volunteered in the community.
“I feel really good now, it was hard coming back and I found I had cravings which are starting to lessen, now it is about making the right choices,” she said.