The day Launceston woman Lucie Johnson was released from prison she went from court, around the corner to the Cameron Street Community Corrections Office, and back home.
That would be the first contact she had with any form of post-prison intervention or transition support for another six weeks until her second Corrections appointment.
It was despite a court appearance in between, and an assertion from Lucie in court that she had been unable to get a GP appointment with Headspace due to wait times.
When asked about the situation confronting Lucie, Attorney-General Elise Archer said support services for those trying to exit the justice system were one of her priorities.
"My strong focus has always been on rehabilitation and reintegration to ensure offenders can get their lives back on track and better contribute to their community, which includes access to adequate support and services upon their release," she said.
Having several mental health diagnoses, Lucie's time in prison was self-defined as a "turning point" for her in wanting to recover from issues contributing to those conditions.
Now, at the age of 24, Lucie has been taking taking drugs for about a decade. First it was marijuana, but soon she had fallen into a habit of smoking meth.
By the time she was 22, having moved to Launceston from Victoria, she was well on a dangerous path.
She had tried and failed to implement private psychological intervention, was well known by Tasmania Police, had a disqualified licence, had unsuccessfully been part of a government instituted addiction housing program, had spent fruitless stints in the Northside psychological facility, and was about to spend a 12 month period of her life racking up a 40 count long list of offences to be heard in the Launceston Magistrates Court.
By the time those offences were heard on October 11, she had spent 23 days in custody, and Magistrate Sharon Cure ruled that was "enough time of actual incarceration".
Her offending had escalated, her drug use had escalated, she had been involved in police chases, threw a coke can at a police officer and incurred $7000 of damage to government vehicles at the CH Smith building.
On the day Lucie walked free from court she was delivered conditions that she meet with Community Corrections within 24 hours, be assessed for a mental health order, and not drive a car or motorbike under any circumstances.
Having not been able to have a GP appointment so far at Headspace, she has not received a mental health order, and is not entitled to a mental health plan issued by a GP - the type someone needs to access subsidised psychological care.
Launceston Headspace manager Richard Lewandowski says wait times are an issue.
The Launceston branch of the service has less than the equivalent of one full-time employed GP on its books.
We are constantly working at trying to find ways of addressing [the wait times] through various options we might have, but there's a lack of supply.- Headspace Launceston manager Richard Lewandowski
"We'd love to have more options, it does concern us, and we'd like to be able to provide more access to GPs."
He says the organisation has been a "victim of its own success", and while they provide services for several young people in Launceston, others are missing out.
Headspace is federally funded, and over the next four years it is set to receive $873.2 million nationally.
"While valuable in supporting specific aspects of the model of care provided by headspace, GPs in headspace centres are not intended to replace general GP services," a federal Health Department spokeswoman said.
For young people leaving the justice system, it may be more appropriate that they access ongoing care through a mainstream GP service.- Federal Health Department spokeswoman
"All Australians can access Medicare-subsidised care from any GP."
When she walked out of the Magistrates Court it had been 23 days since she had seen her friends, family or dog, Benji. She had not been able to use her phone, had been on a strict schedule which she says was the best thing for her, and the "fog" of prolonged drug use had started to dissipate from her brain.
She says she was starting to process the past 12 months of her life, how she had ended up in prison, and all of the circumstances that led her there.
"Towards the end of my time in there, I started to feel really good. I felt like I'd wake up and I'd have energy," she says.
I felt naturally high. My moods were much more stable, and I literally felt high on life. I felt normal.- Lucie Johnson
One of her mental health diagnoses, which she had received as her drug use increased, was schizophrenia. Another was drug induced psychosis.
Lucie says she does not think she has schizophrenia, but that drug use makes it seem like she does. As for the drug induced psychosis, it has had a devastating effect on her life.
In court, Lucie's lawyer Fran McCracken said her client had gone a long period of time without offending before her mental health plan lapsed after there was no case manager to allocate to her.
Her timeline of offences indicates as much. After a four month period of offending in 2020 until September, Lucie had no recorded offences between then and June the following year, about the time her plan lapsed.
A state Justice Department spokeswoman said there were 24 full-time employees at the Launceston corrections office. That 24 consisted of Probation Officers, Court Diversion Officers, Program Facilitators, Report Writer, Case Work Support Officer, Community Service Support Officers and Team Leaders.
GP access proved to be just the first stumbling block for Lucie, and the "fog" on her brain soon returned.
While GPs and, in turn, mental health services have been difficult to access, she says a source of drugs has not been.
"When I got out of jail my phone was full of messages ... it was very overwhelming," she says.
There were a lot of different messages from different kinds of people, but straight away I got offered to be shouted drugs the first night out and that started a week-long bender.- Lucie Johnson
"I came out of jail feeling fresh, feeling high on life because it had been so long and the drugs had mostly gotten out of my system, and then I just go hard for a week.
"I doesn't even put me back to square one, it puts me in the minuses."
A standard day in the Launceston Magistrates Court highlights the difficulties faced by those wanting to remove themselves from the cycle of drug-taking, rehabilitation and relapse. Some days entire courtrooms are dedicated to drug related offences, including breaches of drug treatment orders.
Part of Lucie's transition from the justice system is to undertake an addiction program. This program is called EQUIPS, and it is quite common.
In the 2020-21 financial year 97 people undertook the program across the state.
In the same space of time there were four addiction programs held across Launceston and the northern region. Each program had the capacity for 12 participants.
Lucie says she has been told she wont be able to participate in an addiction program until sometime next year.
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While Lucie openly admits she is not sure if she is ready to stop taking drugs, the reality is she does not have the capacity to do so on her own.
I don't know how to get off drugs, so it's easier to keep doing them.- Lucie Johnson
The state Justice Department was asked how long the wait times were for a place in an addiction program, but was unable to provide an answer.
The department spokeswoman said services for people exiting the justice system were "tailored to individual circumstances".
"[They] support rehabilitation and reduce the risk of reoffending, including regular meetings and home visits," she said.
For Lucie, drugs started off as a way of self-medicating, and even self-harming, following significant trauma that happened in her youth.
And while she is realistic about having made mistakes and choices she should not have, she says navigating the path away from drugs, offending, and the justice system has been "overwhelming" and difficult.
"When I start to actually believe in myself, something just kills it," she says.
She says he does not want sympathy, but wants to be able to take a step forward in her life. She is just not sure how.
She says she is worried that the difficulty she has faced trying to take that step might force her to keep taking the "easy option" and lead her to a life of taking drugs, of failing the break free from the cycle, and ending in a life wasted.
At 24, Lucie is at a crossroads, and she has no idea what step next to take.
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