The state government has pulled its support of a drug program after being unsatisfied with a trial it funded for two years to help tackle ice addiction in a regional community.

Key points:

  • The regional Matrix drug program trial has come to an end
  • MP Tim Whetstone says not enough evidence has been provided to continue the pilot
  • The Matrix program director says its own results from the trial are promising

The Matrix was hailed as a distinctive out-patient rehabilitation program and was funded as a pilot in the Riverland by the government in response to the methamphetamine crisis, commonly referred to as ice.

The trial finished in December and the government has said it would not continue, despite initial talks it could become a model for other regions.

“The Riverland pilot program is expected to run for two years, and following an independent review the state government will consider extending the Matrix program to other identified areas of need in regional SA,” a 2018 government release stated.

Now, a government spokesperson has said an independent evaluation found “the pilot did not meet the expected program outcomes”.

The spokesperson said that in 2019, the SA Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) was engaged to evaluate the pilot program and measure its progress.

The Matrix pilot program, administered by PsychMed, received $580,000 over two years to fund the local trial based on a treatment formula used in the United States.

Quentin Black talks with program graduate Nicole Bowering.(

ABC News: Rebecca Puddy


Participants ‘rebuilt lives’

Despite government concerns, program director Quentin Black said the results indicated it “was unquestionably very successful in terms of outcomes for people”.

He said their data showed a 92 per cent decrease in drug use days for its more than 50 participants, who also recorded a decrease in drug dependency and urge by the end of their participation.

“Many of the participants have gone on to reunite with families, gain employment and be more actively involved in the community again,” Dr Black said.

“There remains a significant need for effective programs like this in the Riverland, South East and the Mid North, and indeed throughout regional Australia, which will likely require support from the Commonwealth government.”

Dr Black said there were still people completing the program and PsychMed was continuing to collect outcome data to be used for a comprehensive review in collaboration with independent senior academics.

Wastewater survey results in August showed cannabis use in regional Australia at a record high.(

Flickr: Heath Alseike


Program did not win support

But the Member for Chaffey, Tim Whetstone, who advocated for the program to be brought to the Riverland, said it had failed to win the support of SA Police or SA Health.

“The PsychMed and the Matrix program coming to the Riverland, it had some merit, but there wasn’t enough substantiated evidence to leave that program in the Riverland, and sadly we’ve seen the program come and go,” Mr Whetstone said.

“The program was unquestionably very successful in terms of outcomes for people, but demonstrating those is very important so people can see it provides value to the community in terms of restoring people’s lives,” he said.

Dr Black said he was in discussions with the Commonwealth over funding options to bring the Matrix program to other regions.