News

Tackling gambling head on

By Tara Whitsed

Primary Care Connect is encouraging people to talk, share and support to reduce gambling harm in the Shepparton community.

This week is Gambling Harm Awareness Week and Primary Care Connect’s gamblers’ help co-ordinator Julie Le Sueur said there would be a number of activities to help raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding problem gambling.

‘‘In Greater Shepparton, $85000 is spent per day on poker machines,’’ she said.

‘‘That’s $31million per year in the City of Greater Shepparton alone.’’

Ms Le Sueur said these figures were simply those taken from poker machines and did not include the money spent at online betting agencies.

‘‘We know it’s a minefield and it’s a huge problem but it’s something we cannot measure,’’ she said.

Ms Le Sueur said one aim of the week was about starting a conversation as well as making sure people knew where to access help.

Primary Care Connect runs gamblers’ help services with a team of staff dedicated to reducing the harm surrounding problem gambling.

Ms Le Sueur said they were moving from a therapeutic model towards a public health model and there was a large focus on prevention and education, including supporting venues and their staff.

Primary Care Connect venue support worker Victoria Geerling said her role involved visiting local pubs, clubs and hotels to assist with the responsible service of gaming in a support role as well as delivering training to staff and more.

‘‘It is important for staff to recognise when someone is showing the signs they may experience gambling-related harm and that staff are trained to respond appropriately when they see those signs,’’ she said.

Among the team is financial counsellor Bill Shattock, who helps vulnerable people make the best decisions when it comes to finances.

‘‘I offer them options and support them through the decisions they make,’’ he said.

Ms Le Sueur said Primary Care Connect recently appointed health promotion officer Sam Spinks, who will help to run the pilot program You Can, which aims to get the community connected.

‘‘You will reduce harm when you get the community engaged in a constructive activity,’’ Ms Le Sueur said.

All gamblers’ help services at Primary Care Connect are free and are also available to people affected by the gambling addiction of others.

‘‘We know that for each problem gambler there are seven to 10 affected others,’’ Ms Le Sueur said.

This week the team will be attending schools and will also run a dual-diagnosis workshop in Shepparton, a women’s health event in Murrindindi and at the Shepparton Show on Friday, as well as an exciting staff Family Feud session.

For information on Gambling Harm Awareness Week, visit responsiblegambling.vic.gov.au

If you or someone you know is experiencing harm from gambling, phone Primary Care Connect on 58233200 or gamblers’ helpline on 1800858858.