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Review of the drug and alcohol prevention and treatment services sector

Project Members: 
image - 1314146187 Chalmers Jenny 06
Dr Jenny Chalmers
Honorary Senior Lecturer
image - Lynda Berends Square
Dr Lynda Berends
Visiting Senior Fellow
Mr Philip Hull
Research Assistant
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Ms Maria Gomez
Research Assistant
image - Kari Lancaster Low Res 2017
Associate Professor Kari Lancaster
Scientia Associate Professor
Project Main Description: 

This project sought to clarify Australian drug and alcohol treatment funding; current and future service needs; the gap between met and unmet demand; and planning and funding processes for the future.

This project aimed to deliver:

  1. a shared understanding of current drug and alcohol treatment funding;
  2. a set of planned and coordinated funding processes for future Commonwealth AOD funding rounds; and
  3. documentation to inform future Commonwealth funding processes which articulate with state/territory approaches and respond to the needs of individuals, families and their communities.



The former Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, the Hon. Mark Butler MP, requested that the Department of Health and Ageing undertake a review of the drug and alcohol prevention and treatment services sector following the Substance Misuse Service Delivery Grants Fund, and Non-Government Organisation Treatment Grants Program funding rounds that were finalised in early 2012. The department conducted an open tender process to engage a consultant to undertake the review, with a team from the Drug Policy Modelling Program (DPMP) at the University of New South Wales, headed by Professor Alison Ritter, being the successful tenderer.


The Review aims to achieve:

  • clarity as to the range of services currently funded by governments, their distribution and the demographic groups targeted by these services;
  • a common understanding amongst governments and the sector of current and future service needs and where there may be service gaps, either in relation to service type, geographic area and/or demographic groups;
  • clarity as to the type and timing of drug and alcohol funding activities undertaken by governments; and
  • the development of a resource/tools to help focus future government funding activities to ensure existing levels of resources (and any growth funding) are used as efficiently and effectively as possible to deliver quality, sustainable drug and alcohol services that respond to the needs of individuals, families and communities.
Design and Method: 

Primary data collection will use a rapid assessment methodology. This is a highly consultative and engaged approach to obtaining and analysing large amounts of data (both quantitative and qualitative) over a relatively brief period of time. Each state/territory health department, and pNGO AOD peak bodies across the jurisdictions will participate in the rapid assessments. The research team will source both quantitative and qualitative data, analyse records held, discuss and review data with the stakeholder providing the data, and seek out the perspectives of the various stakeholders, and their interpretations of the data.

The rapid assessment approach provides for wide consultation as the core team is in situ with stakeholders, collecting and analysing, discussing and reviewing data as it comes to hand. Stakeholders will be contacted during the rapid assessments, including the local consumer representative bodies. Through the work with the peaks we will engage service providers. Likewise during the rapid assessments with government, key government service providers will be engaged.

In addition to documenting service types and funding sources, we will document the types of treatment provided and who receives them. We refer to this as ‘met demand’. This is best completed by way of secondary analysis of treatment data. The datasets we are using include: the AODTS- NMDS, NOPSAD, the National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD), and Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health data (BEACH).

We will conduct a gap analysis (difference between met and unmet demand) using the DA-CCP model (NSW Ministry of Health). The DA-CCP national planning model will be invaluable in making some estimates of the unmet demand for treatment across the five drug types covered by DA-CCP (alcohol, opiates, amphetamines, benzodiazepines and cannabis).

Aboriginal services are included within the review scope. The National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) at Curtin University is undertaking this work.  They will be collecting and analysing data from stakeholders across Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The data will cover: identification of gaps in current service provision; areas of unmet need; priority groups; service planning processes; and funding models/funding arrangements and contracting issues. Strengths, weaknesses and challenges across these areas will be covered.  Prof Dennis Gray is leading this work.

The final report will be an analysis across all the components drawing on:

·         the working papers;

·         the Review Advisory Committee input;

·         consultations throughout with governments and peak bodies, including consumer representatives; and,

·         our further analytic work after all data collection is complete.

The final report will be a confidential report delivered to the Department of Health. Its release will be determined by the Department of Health.


This project has been completed.


The final report New Horizons: The review of alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia is available here.

Working papers formed the core of the communication strategy – giving stakeholders access to the workings and analysis of the review team throughout the 12 months. Nine working papers were prepared, and input sought, (these working papers are no longer available on the website. Requests for a copy of the working papers can be made to Alison Ritter via email a.ritter@unsw.edu.au).


Ritter, A*. Alcohol and other drug treatment in Australia - the state of play. 2014 Australian Winter School Conference, Brisbane, July 2014.

View the presentation below:







The review provides an opportunity to detail what is occurring and establish principles for future planning, useful for all levels of government, service providers and, ultimately, the broader community.

Project Status: 
Year Completed: