Avenues for funding a drug detox and rehabilitation facility in Dubbo "are being considered", says NSW Heath Minister Brad Hazzard.
Dubbo Regional Council has been pushing for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility to be built in Dubbo as part of a suite of measures to reduce crime.
The federal government has pledged $3 million towards the facility in Dubbo, while council has offered to provide the land.
A spokesperson for Mr Hazzard provided Australian Community Media with two sentences when asked about a rehabilitation facility for the city.
"[Dubbo MP] Dugald Saunders is an advocate of a drug detox and rehabilitation facility in Dubbo and has discussed the matter with the Minister for Health on numerous occasions," the spokesperson said.
"Avenues for funding of the facility are being considered."
No answer was given when asked if Mr Hazzard believed a facility was needed in Dubbo or the impact it would have.
Dubbo deputy mayor Stephen Lawrence is worried it's now or never for a rehabilitation facility.
"Last year I was getting really positive signals that our long-running campaign to get a range of justice reinvestment initiatives for Dubbo, including a residential rehab and detox centre, a drug court, and a youth Koori court was going to be successful, but then of course we had the COVID-19 pandemic which has really hit economy activity and had a big impact on the state budget," Cr Lawrence said.
"Now I'm getting very concerned it might be able to fall through."
The NSW budget will be handed down on November 17. While normally finalised mid-year, it was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"My read on the situation is that if we don't get these [social justice facilities] in the next budget there's almost an inevitability that we're not going to get them," Cr Lawrence said.
Mr Saunders has been lobbying the attorney-general, health minister, treasurer and premier about it for some time.
"I want to get something that works and I've approached the treasurer about the funding. But bearing in mind, everything is pre-COVID-19," he said in June.
"We're now going to be heading into a post-COVID-19 scenario where everything looks a lot different than it did back in March."
A rehab is expected to have far-reaching impacts, such as reducing crime.
"You might have someone whose family becomes aware they're developing, let's say, a problem with ice. What you find with many people is they will not travel for those services and the chance of their family convincing them they should travel to Brewarrina or to Sydney is basically nil so that person will continue to go into worsening crisis and then attract the intervention of the government when things go really wrong," Cr Lawrence said.
"What this project is really about is having the facility here, working with community groups, to make sure that person is assisted early and that person doesn't just get help in the form of arrest and incarceration but we help them before we get there."
The deputy mayor said it would also assist people who were transitioning out of custody.
"Having this sort of centre in the region will mean that that sort of person can appropriately transition and their risk of committing further criminal offences in that immediate release period will be dramatically reduced."
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