The Horizons Project: An empirical analysis of alcohol and drug treatment funding, purchasing and workforce mechanisms

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Date Commenced:
April 2017
Expected Date of Completion:
March 2020
Project Supporters:

NHMRC Project Grant (GNT1128100)

Drug Type:
Project Members: 
image - 1313976712 Alison Ritter 005
Director, Drug Policy Modelling Program
Ph 02 9385 0236
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Associate Professor
Ph +61 (2) 9385 0333
image - 1314146187 Chalmers Jenny 06
Dr Jenny Chalmers
Conjoint Senior Lecturer
image - Michala Kowalski
Research Assistant
Project Main Description: 

Alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment is key for improving health and reducing the social impact of AOD use. However, the treatment itself is not the only variable that impacts on whether health outcomes are improved. The way in which treatment is funded, purchased, and staffed is likewise important. While these variables are important determinants of treatment outcomes, no Australian research to date has examined how the funding, purchasing, and staffing of treatment impacts on client treatment outcomes.

The key structural features associated with treatment outcomes are:

  1. Funding arrangements
  2. Purchasing mechanisms
  3. Provider type
  4. Workforce characteristics

This is the first Australian research to focus on these structural features and examine how the funding, purchasing, and staffing of treatment impacts on client treatment outcomes. This project, named Horizons, has been funded by the NHMRC (2017 to 2019).


Project Collaborators: External: 

Dr Michael Livingston
La Trobe University

Dr Lynda Berends
Trace Research

Professor Harvey Whiteford
The University of Queensland

Mr Sam Biondo
CEO, Victorian Alcohol And other Drug Association (VAADA)

Ms Helene Delany
Manager, Alcohol and other Drug Policy, ACT Health

Associate Professor Adrian Dunlop
Addiction Medicine Specialist, NSW Ministry of Health

Dr Moira Hewitt
Head, Tobacco Alcohol and Other Drugs Unit. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Ms Rebecca Lang
CEO, Queensland Network of Alcohol and Drug Agencies (QNADA)

Professor Ann Roche
Director, National Centre Education and Training on Addictions (NCETA)

Dr Kerstin Stenius
Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services, National Inst for Health & Welfare, Finland

Associate Professor Jessica Storbjork
Stockholm University, Sweden


The project will provide an empirical foundation to guide decisions about how to fund and purchase AOD treatment services. It has the potential to directly benefit AOD treatment providers, policymakers, and AOD researchers in a number of ways. Having accurate information on the funding arrangements, purchasing mechanisms and workforce characteristics of services will help, amongst other things, to:

  • Better plan the ways in which treatment services are funded;
  • Understand the implications of different types of purchasing models;
  • Assist with the allocation of resources to maximise health and wellbeing outcomes;
  • Provide data for new research questions of interest to treatment providers and funders about the AOD workforce characteristics; and
  • Gain insight in funding and workforce characteristics in relation to treatment outcomes to enhance the capacity of the AOD sector.

This study aims to produce:

  • An evidence-based appraisal of the different funding, purchasing, and staffing models currently in practice throughout Australia, in relation to treatment outcomes.
  • Evidence-based recommendations about the funding, purchasing, and staffing models that produce the most positive treatment outcomes.
Design and Method: 

The Horizons Project involves surveying alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment agencies located in all states and territories that report to the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Data Set (AODTS-NMDS). The AODTS-NMDS is a national minimum data reporting requirement and the AIHW are the data custodians. The study will seek consent from each AOD treatment agency to access their de-identified and anonymised AODTS-NMDS records as well as each agency being invited to complete a questionnaire about their organisation, including approaches to purchasing, funding and workforce characteristics. The survey will be completed by the managers of the AOD agencies.

This is an ambitious project, with multiple data requirements. Some data are sensitive, and ethical processes (including the protection of privacy and confidentiality) will be maintained throughout the project. No individual or agency will be identifiable in any materials disseminated by project.


We are in the midst of various ethics applications and, once received, will commence the recruitment process. We will invite people who oversee AOD agencies (e.g. managers, CEOs, senior staff members, etc.) to participate in our organisational survey, and to ask their consent to access the de-identified and anonymised AODTS-NMDS records of their AOD agency.

If you have questions about the requirements for participation, and/or would like to receive regular updates, please email Dr Katinka van de Ven (email:

Project Research Area: 
Project Status: