Seven groups in Bellingen Shire are coming together to form a Local Drug Action Team to minimise abuse of alcohol, ice and other drugs among young people.
The partnership between the Bello Youth Hub, The Buttery, Dorrigo High School, Dorrigo Youth Space, Bellingen Mentor Group, Bellingen Shire Youth Services and Bellingen High School has initial funding of $10,000 from the federal government and the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.
The team will draw on best practice and local knowledge to develop community-specific action plans.
Bello Youth Hub Coordinator, Dean Besley, said drug and alcohol misuse in our region is a big problem that's getting worse, so joining forces to tackle it made sense.
"When we all got together, we recognised that we'd all been doing stuff separately," Dean said. "The idea of the Local Drug Action Team is that we come at it collectively and see what that looks like."
Community-wide conversations will be the first step, possibly as forums targeting key groups in each of the shire's main centres.
"We've identified three groups that need to be included in the process," Dean said. "The youth, through the schools and the youth centres; the local services and youth organisations; and community groups and individuals.
"We will amass some information and come up with strategies and action plans that we will roll out."
Dean said that although education and youth engagement would be included, it wasn't enough.
"Just having education about ice doesn't stop people from using ice," he said. "We've got to do more than that, we've got to think outside the square.
"If we can rally as a well-informed, well-connected, thoughtful community then that's the best defence we've got."
The Youth Hub will auspice and drive the program and make sure it meets the Alcohol and Drug Foundation requirements and the Local Drug Action Team's aspirations.
There are now 70 Local Drug Action Teams across NSW and 244 teams nationally, and Dean said the Bellingen team will certainly be researching what the others are doing.
"I'm a big fan for seeing who else has done something that works, and does it apply to us, and how can we adapt it," he said.
Local Drug Action Teams receive an initial $10,000 to develop tailored community action plans and can apply for further funding to deliver specific activities.
Alcohol and Drug Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Dr Erin Lalor, said tailored community-led initiatives were vital in preventing and minimising harms caused by alcohol and other drugs.
“The Local Drug Action Team Program recognises that every community is unique and there’s no one-size fits all solution,” she said.
The Local Drug Action Team Program is part of the Australian Government’s investment of $298 million over four years under the National Ice Action Strategy.