REGION - The first step in tackling the alarming issue of 'Ice' use across the region will take shape next Wednesday evening with a community forum to be held at the Ararat Performing Arts Centre.
The forum has been organised by a large group of community organisations including the Grampians Pyrenees Primary Care Partnership, Grampians Community Health, Victoria Police, East Grampians Health Service, Ballarat Health Services, Northern Grampians Shire Council, Ararat Rural City Council, Central Grampians LLEN, Ararat College, Ambulance Victoria, Victorian Department of Justice and Wimmera Drug Action Taskforce.
Spokesperson for the group Lauren Dempsey said the forum aimed to provide the community with accurate and useful information about use of the crystal methamphetamine hydrochloride drug.
"It is a really important community issue," she said.
"The Wimmera Drug Action Taskforce ran an Ice education session in Horsham last year and following that they decided that there was a need for something similar in the Ararat region as well.
"The taskforce co-ordinator Brendan Scale helped establish the Central Grampians Group and that is when the different community groups got on board.
"The important thing to note is that this will not just be a one off event, there will be plenty of help available to people following the forum. We will have information regarding the various support services that people can access and use to assist those in need."
Although not specific to amphetamines and Ice in particular, statistics from the Victoria Police show an alarming rise in drug offences in the Northern Grampians region.
There were 288 offences recorded between April 2013 and March 2014 relating to drug cultivation, manufacturing and trafficking in this region - an exponential increase of 125 per cent on the same time the previous year.
There has also been an increase of 30.5 per cent in drug use and possession over the same period.
The forum, to be facilitated by Dan Glover from ABC Radio Western Victoria, will hear the powerful story of one mother of an ice addict.
She will tell of coming to realise the extent of her son's use, its impact on their family life and finances and his gradual recovery.
Friends and family that may know an Ice user, as well as other members of the community are being encouraged to attend the forum.
"The forum aims to raise community awareness," Ms Dempsey said.
"We have also targeted local sporting clubs and schools so that they know how best to deal with somebody that may be affected by this."
Ms Dempsey said a question and answer session will also be run on the night, where questions can be submitted in advance by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), written down and handed in or sent through by text on the night - all done anonymously.
Panel members include Ararat GP Dr Mark Deary, Ambulance Victoria Clinical Support Manager Julian Cofield, Horsham Drug and Alcohol Counsellor and Grampians Community Health Russell Reid, Senior Sergeant Damian Ferrari Station Commander Ararat Police Station and Brendan Scale, coordinator of the Wimmera Drug Action Taskforce.
Mr Scale said that after alcohol and cannabis, Ice was the most common drug for which people sought treatment.
"We know that for every person seeking help for a drug, there are many others who may be using but do not seek treatment," he said.
"Ice is an amphetamine and it is a unique drug because it can destroy lives very rapidly."
A recent study by researchers at the Australian National University for the first time found a direct link between the use of the drug Ice and violence.
The study found users were six times more likely to demonstrate violent behaviour after using the drug heavily.
The forum takes place on Wednesday June 4, beginning at 7pm at the Ararat Performing Arts Centre. Admission is free and you can obtain more information by contacting Lauren Dempsey or Marianne Hendron at the Grampians Pyrenees Primary Care Partnership on 5352 6200.