Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services PHN Circular 1 - 4 February 2016

Page last updated: 04 February 2016

PHN Update 1: Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services

In April 2015, the Australian Government established a National Ice Taskforce—led by former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police Mr Ken Lay APM. The Government asked the Taskforce to provide advice on the development of a National Ice Action Strategy.

The Taskforce consulted widely with experts and communities all around the country—and received around 1,300 public submissions. The Taskforce found that Australian families, communities and frontline service workers are struggling with the fallout from a growing number of dependent ice users. The report finds we need to be smarter, more coordinated and more targeted in our efforts to reduce the demand and supply of ice. The Taskforce acknowledges the critical role of law enforcement efforts, but recommends that tackling this issue must also include education, training and better access to treatment and services.

On 6 December 2015, the Australian Government released its Response to the National Ice Taskforce’s Final Report (the Response). The Response includes an additional investment of $298.2 million over four years from 1 July 2016 to strengthen responses across drug education, prevention, treatment, support and community engagement. These measures underpin the National Ice Action Strategy, which includes achievable actions that will help governments, service providers and communities work together to reduce the supply and use of ‘ice’ in Australia, and the harm it causes to the community. The National Ice Action Strategy was endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments on 11 December 2015.

Principal to this announcement has been the $241.5 million for Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to commission more drug and alcohol treatment services, including indigenous-specific services, based on what is necessary and appropriate to the needs of their local communities.

PHNs are well-placed to fund services on the basis of local needs and ensure the coordination of services across the continuum of care. The involvement of PHNs will ensure that investment is well coordinated at the local level and that primary care solutions are part of the response. PHNs will also support improved access to services, within the primary health sector, for people that need help, but do not qualify for specialist treatment services. PHNs role in commissioning treatment services at the local level will complement their new role in coordinating Commonwealth-funded mental health programmes at the local level. PHNs will work with relevant stakeholders including Local Hospital Networks (LHNs) and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) on drug and alcohol treatment planning to contribute to improved regional coordination and sector efficiency.

A key component of this investment will be for Indigenous-specific drug and alcohol treatment services and culturally appropriate mainstream treatment services are available for Indigenous Australians

The Department will work closely with PHNs during their transition into this new role. These updates will supplement discussions relating to the implementation of drug and alcohol treatment that are taking place through the regular CEOs teleconference organised by the PHN Branch. This Updates seeks to provide clarity on a number of questions PHNs may have in this developmental stage, and to provide an update on the progress towards implementation.

AOD Funding Arrangements

The 2015 ‘New Horizons: Review of alcohol and other drug treatment in Australia’ report found that there is an unmet demand for drug and alcohol treatment services in Australia. The National Ice Taskforce’s Final Report added that an increase in ice supply and use in Australia has exacerbated this unmet demand.

However, the additional $245.1 million to PHNs will not be exclusively for the commissioning of ‘ice’-specific services. It is intended to increase the capacity of the drug and alcohol treatment sector broadly, to adequately and effectively deliver treatment services.

There will be a phased implementation approach to prepare PHNs for the additional responsibilities. During the transition to PHNs, existing drug and alcohol treatment services currently contracted by the Commonwealth Department of Health will have their contracts extended for a further 12 months to the end of 2016-17 while PHNs establish their role. Early advice will be provided regarding the distribution of this existing funding allocation beyond the end 2016-17.

New drug and alcohol treatment services refers to new investment in additional drug and alcohol treatment services commissioned through PHNs. PHNs role in commissioning treatment services at the local level will complement their new role in coordinating Commonwealth-funded mental health programmes at the local level, as well as build linkages with primary care.

The new role of PHNs will also not impact on existing Indigenous-specific treatment services already contracted by the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, but will build on this existing investment.

PHN Funding Distribution

The Department is currently looking at the best way to distribute the new investment to PHNs.In developing this funding distribution model, the Department is looking to be consistent with the methodology behind the existing PHN funding, whilst also giving consideration to vulnerable groups and targeting populations that are most in need of drug and alcohol treatment. The Department anticipates being able to provide advice to PHNs regarding funding allocations for PHNs by the end of February. This advice will include the funding distribution which will be allocated for Indigenous-specific treatment services and culturally appropriate mainstream treatment services.

PHN Needs Assessments

The Department is aware that a number of PHNs have commenced needs assessments in their regions to set priorities for health and service planning relating to mental health and drug and alcohol treatment.

It is anticipated that the needs assessment will take into consideration the profile of your PHN population, the existing Commonwealth drug and alcohol treatment funding/services, as well as the NGO and existing state and territory funding/services. So, it is anticipated that there would be a demonstrable increase in services targeting need, based on evidence and your local knowledge and partnerships.

To facilitate this work, set-up operational funding is being provided to PHNs until 30 June 2016 to undertake local needs based planning to implement better targeted mental health effort; and the delivery of further drug and alcohol treatment services. PHNs will be required to identify service needs specific to both the mental health and drug and alcohol treatment priorities, and how they will be commissioned and delivered. PHNs must also be willing to facilitate opportunities for collaboration between drug and alcohol and mental health services, given the challenges of treating coexisting mental health and drug misuse conditions.

To help inform the needs assessments, the Department is providing data, evidence and research relevant to PHNs’ key priorities for drug and alcohol treatment, consistent with the approach outlined in the PHN Needs Assessment Guide. Initial information has been uploaded on the Alcohol and Other Drugs Information page.

PHN Programme Guidance

The Department is currently developing detailed Drug and Alcohol Treatment programme guidance to assist PHNs in the commissioning process. The Department is committed to providing comprehensive accompanying material for service providers to guide their commissioning process and provide them with evidence on best practice drug and alcohol treatment services. The Department is currently seeking expert advice on how best to translate this evidence for use by PHNs.

It is anticipated this Guidance will be provided to PHNs by the end of March.

Within the parameters of the programme guidance set by the Department, PHNs will need to work with relevant stakeholders, including Local Health Networks (LHNs) and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs), on drug and alcohol treatment planning to ensure improved regional coordination and sector efficiency.

Communication activities

Information will be provided regularly to PHNs through dissemination of these Updates and by other means if required. This will be in addition to the drug and alcohol updates provided at the PHN CEOs teleconference. There will also be an opportunity to further discuss issues at the PHN National Forum on 22-23 March 2016.

Key Documents

There are a number of key documents that PHNs may wish to become familiar with in preparation for the commissioning of drug and alcohol treatment services:

The National Ice Action Strategy

The National Ice Taskforce’s Final Report

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