THE Moree community is demanding answers following the closure of substance abuse centre Roy Thorne House.
The facility was closed after the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH) withdrew funding at the end of October.
It is understood Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL), which jointly funded the centre and owns the building, had cut funding in September.
A spokeswoman from the Department of Health and Ageing (of which OATSIH is an agency) said funding ceased after a six-year history of non-compliance by the organisation with the funding agreement, “despite efforts by the department to work with the board and assist the organisation”.
She said a funds administrator was contracted in May and a health management advisor was contracted in June to help Roy Thorne House address identified risks, and to provide recommendations to the department on the viability of the service.
But Roy Thorne House board chairman Glen Crump said consultants sent in by OATSIH found the centre was a “viable service” and recommended it was necessary.
He said the consultants were there for just two-and-a-half days, which was insufficient for the centre to work with them and determine what the issues of non-compliance were.
There was little consultation with the board or community, Mr Crump said, and the department had since been uncooperative.
“It’s not only a kick in the guts of the Moree community – Roy Thorne House catered for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people right across this country,” Mr Crump said.
Roy Thorne House was a residential rehabilitation service for men and women, but also provided a range of other services on cultural identity, grief and loss, and family violence.
Mr Crump said as a result of the centre’s closure, people were being sent to corrective services.
He feared the longer it was left closed, the more likely a life would be lost.
The nearest residential rehabilitation facility to Moree was seven hours away, he said.
The health spokeswoman said the department was in the process of providing extra funding to a local service provider for drug and alcohol treatment.
The department was also working with stakeholders on a model for sustainable, long-term service delivery.
Moree resident Lyall Munro said he had been involved with the centre for some 40-odd years and demanded answers, saying it was responsible for helping many people with serious problems get their lives back on track.
“Moree can’t afford to lose a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre,” Mr Munro said.
Fifteen staff, five of whom were full-time, were employed at Roy Thorne House.