SE rehab centre crushed by debt

THE only non-private rehabilitation centre in the SE has been forced to close its doors after 28 years of providing hope for addicts.

The closure of Naracoorte's Karobran Wellness Centre couldn't have come at a worse time, with the scourge of "Ice" addiction gripping regional areas.

Karobran has been facing an uncertain future for over a year as mounting costs and increasing debt threatened the organisation, but the decision to wrap up operations was made after a board meeting on Monday evening.

Owner and manager Pastor Dean Childs said the facility, located near Wrattonbully, is already in the process of closure, but will be seeking a like-minded organisation to take over its operation.

"We will be looking for expressions of interest for organisations with a similar philosophy to us to come in and take over the property," he said. "Over the next few weeks myself and a number of volunteers will be working to fix up the place a bit and then we will seek new owners.

"It simply got to the stage where the debt we have been carrying ran too close to the equity of the property, making it unsustainable to continue to operate."

If management can't find a suitable organisation to operate the rehabilitation centre the property will be placed on the open market, when Pastor Childs said it would "cease to exist".

Such a move would leave the SE without a dedicated rehabilitation facility that can cater to individuals with lower or minimal income.

"We are the only non-private rehab centre in the area," said acting manager David Helyard, whose contract with Karobran expired as of Tuesday.

"Yet there is a severe need for one, particularly with the challenges we have faced in recent years. People want to have sufficient facilities to treat recovering addicts, particularly with ice becoming such a problem.

"They want a crisis centre (for immediate treatment), a detox centre (for short-term spells) and then you need a rehabilitation centre to make sure that the person receives the help they need."

Even the sale of two properties owned by Pastor Childs and wife Jenene have not been sufficient to cover the debt, which is estimated at $600,000.

"The problem we face with each individual is the same; addiction. But every person is different and there isn't one rehabilitation centre that can cater to everyone," Mr Helyard said. "And to deal with different addictions requires different equipment, facilities and specialist staff."

For now however, the area will be left only with private rehabilitation centres, most of which are far too expensive for much of the population.

"It's difficult to be both financially viable and to help people as well. Some of the upmarket rehabilitation centres fare better because they are funded by their patients, but here we're dealing with people on Centrelink benefits and trying to make it work with them," said Mr Helyard.

The centre has been forced to relocate many of its students already, with the remainder to depart by the weekend. There was concern expressed among them that leaving the facility would see them relapse.

While some have found places at rehabilitation centres in Adelaide and Melbourne, others have only had the option to return to family or mainstream society and the temptations that are all too accessible in that environment.

"It was distressing for some of the students," Pastor Childs said. "They come to us with these challenges and the fact that we have had such a distressing situation here only adds to that, but unfortunately it's something we can't control."

Karobran has been providing a secluded location for students to work through a multitude of addictions, and has made a significant impact on the lives of thousands of people.

"Out here there's a lot less temptation, it's a lot harder to get to the nearest pub for a drink (for instance)," Mr Helyard said.

"That was one of our greatest strengths, and what makes us unique; the isolation that we can provide our students."

The centre has continues to receive enquiries into whether there is a place for people, with former students and concerned family members calling regularly and underlining the high demand for affordable rehabilitation services.

"There are plenty of people who have a need for our services. If you consider all the forms of addiction that we deal with then they number in the hundreds of thousands Australia-wide," Mr Helyard said.

"But the rehabilitation centres at lower levels are closing down."

Member for MacKillop Mitch Williams has expressed his intent to help Karobran find a way to continue operating, but what form that would take is not yet clear.