The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped the MERIT (Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment) program from offering assistance to people who have an identified drug and/or alcohol issue and are facing charges in the Broken Hill or Wilcannia Local Courts.
Substance use issues can effect a person’s ability to make good choices or decisions and can cause complex health, social, familial, financial and vocational consequences. This can have a negative impact on an individual, their families, friends and the community.
MERIT is a drug and alcohol intervention program that gives adult defendants (18 years or older) with substance use issues, who are eligible for bail, and are motivated to engage in treatment for their substance use problems, the opportunity to receive individualised drug and alcohol counselling and treatment; and work towards rehabilitation pre-sentence. Entry into the program is voluntary and the defendant is not required to enter a plea of guilty in order to participate in the program.
The MERIT program is health focused and runs for approximately 12 weeks. It allows defendants to focus on dealing with their drug and alcohol and psychosocial issues, separate from their legal matters. Their court matters are adjourned until the program is completed.
MERIT case-workers work one-on-one with a client and the program is tailored to the individual’s needs. Some of the services provided are harm minimisation, relapse prevention, generalised counselling, holistic health management, assistance to access medical detoxification and referrals to residential rehabilitation and/or the opioid treatment program, mental health and assistance to any other services identified during the program.
The benefits of participating in the MERIT program include decreased or ceased drug and alcohol use, decreased offending behaviour, improved health, wellbeing and social outcomes.
On completion of the MERIT program the magistrate is provided with a comprehensive report on the participant’s response to treatment. The Magistrate is then able to consider the defendant’s progress in treatment as part of final sentencing.
There are a number of ways a person can be referred to the program. Via a Magistrate, solicitor, police officer, friend, family member, health care worker or the person can self-refer.
If you or someone you know may benefit from this program, phone Gill at MERIT on 8080 1689 between 8.30am and 4pm weekdays. Alternatively, call into the MERIT office at 265 Argent St (opposite the TAFE building) on a Tuesday for further information.
The MERIT program is jointly provided by NSW Health and NSW Attorney General’s Department.