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Drug Policy and Services News

Keep up to date with drug policy and services news, view information about new initiatives and upcoming changes.

If you have any feedback or advice about this bulletin, including any topics you would like to see included, please email your comments to


Katherine Utry
Acting Assistant Director
Drug Policy and Services

2016-17 Budget brings new investment for alcohol and other drug services

The 2016-17 Victorian State Budget handed down on April 27 provided a $57.6 million state-wide funding boost to respond to ice and other drugs.

This funding includes a new dedicated drug court, more training for frontline workers, investment in new residential rehabilitation beds and responses to better meet the needs of Aboriginal community members affected by ice.

Over the last two years, the Victorian Government has committed more than $100 million in new funding to support the Ice Action Plan. Initiatives funded in 2016-17 include:

  • $5.5 million for further training and support for frontline workers
  • $6 million for a new alcohol and other drugs residential rehabilitation service in the Grampians area, servicing the Ballarat community
  • $10 million for renewal of mental health and alcohol and other drugs facilities
  • $32 million to expand the Drug Court of Victoria
  • $4 million over four years for new service models designed to better meet the needs of Aboriginal community members.

Also announced in the 2016-17 State Budget was:

Curran Place temporary shutdown: July-August 2016

The Victorian Government is funding the development of a new residential withdrawal unit for mothers with babies, due to open in October 2016.

The new four bed unit will be co-located and integrated with Curran Place, UnitingCare ReGen's existing adult residential withdrawal unit.

Curran Place has closed for eight weeks, from Monday 4 July 2016, while the two units are physically joined. Referrals to Curran Place ceased on Thursday 16 June.

During the temporary shutdown, people seeking adult residential withdrawal at Curran Place are being referred to other services.

The department has developed a factsheet for alcohol and other drug service providers, which includes information on alternative treatment options. Further information for service providers and clients is available from ReGen's website.

Sector engagement informing service improvement

Over the last four months, more than 100 treatment providers, clinicians, peer workers, consumers and families have been engaged in consultations around improvements to the adult community based treatment system.

These discussions are informing our work and being used to develop options to improve effectiveness and responsiveness, focusing on adult community based services. Feedback from these consultations has focused on:

  • communication
  • client access, intake and assessment
  • funding and using flexibility
  • data and recording
  • workforce issues.

The department is continuing to work with the Sector Reference Group on Community Based Alcohol and Other Drug Service Delivery to develop options for implementation for the key priority areas mentioned above.

In addition, the department is progressing key pieces of work including the development of new Program Guidelines, a Performance Management Framework and a new data collection.

Updates and reports from consultations are available from the department's website.

Koolin Balit update

A number of alcohol and other drug community awareness initiatives for Aboriginal communities are currently underway as part of Koolin Balit.

Projects funded under Koolin Balit nearing completion in December 2016 include:

Aboriginal health workforce resource development

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) is developing a training module for the Aboriginal health workforce to improve understanding of culturally appropriate education and harm reduction approaches to methamphetamine use in a poly drug environment.

For information contact - Belinda Stevens - 9411 9411,

Resources to support pregnant Aboriginal women

The Royal Women's Hospital is working closely with Njernda Aboriginal Cooperation and the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service to develop the capacity of services to support pregnant Aboriginal women to understand and better manage the impact of 'ice', alcohol and other drug use on their health and the health of their babies.

For information contact - Sandra Gates - 8345 2218,

Health promotion resources and tools for Aboriginal young people

The Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS) and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) are working together to develop health promotion, education and awareness resources and tools with and for Aboriginal young people that will inform them of harmful ice, alcohol and other drug use.

For information contact - Dominic Ennis - 0418 534 287,

Information and resources for Aboriginal families

The Victorian Aboriginal Health Service is developing and disseminating resources for Aboriginal families about ice use (in the context of poly drug use, including alcohol) and providing advice on available resources and help.

For information contact - Laura Thompson - 9403 3305,

Legislative changes

Permanency for children

On 1 March 2016, amendments to the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 came into effect to address harmful delays in decision-making for children who cannot live with their families due to abuse and neglect.

The new family reunification order sets a time limit of 12 months for parents of children in out of home care to address the protective concerns. In some circumstances, where parents are addressing the issues and reunification is likely to occur, the time can be extended by a further 12 months. If family reunification has not been achieved within 12 or 24 months, permanent alternative care arrangements are made for the child.

Parents whose children are subject to a family reunification order may have conditions placed on that order, or a case plan which requires them to attend alcohol and other drug assessment and treatment, or other services.

Ensuring timely access to services for these families will be critical so that parents have the opportunity to address issues in a timely manner to improve the likelihood of reunification with their children.

For more information and to download the Permanency for Children factsheet, visit the department's website.

Medicinal Cannabis

In April 2016, the Victorian Parliament passed the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2015, which enables Victorians to legally access medicinal cannabis in exceptional circumstances.

The Bill creates a legal framework to enable the manufacture, supply and access to safe and high quality medicinal cannabis products in Victoria. Children with severe epilepsy will be given first access to medicinal cannabis from early 2017.

The Government is establishing the Office of Medicinal Cannabis to oversee manufacturing and all clinical aspects of the medicinal cannabis framework. The Office will work with clinicians, doctors and general practitioners to help them understand their role in prescribing medicinal cannabis, and with patients and families to educate them about medicinal cannabis and eligibility for the scheme.

The Government is also establishing an independent medical advisory committee to provide advice on matters including product availability, patient eligibility and other clinical matters.

For more information and to download the Medicinal Cannabis factsheet, visit the department's website.

New Health Complaints Act 2016

In April 2016, the Parliament of Victoria passed the new Health Complaints Act. The department has prepared a factsheet for alcohol and other drug service providers to help them understand how the changes affect them.

Under the new legislation, the Health Complaints Commissioner has powers to investigate complaints and take action against registered and unregistered health practitioners, including public and private alcohol and other drug service providers and individual practitioners.

Development of a new client incident management system

The department is developing a new client incident management system that will focus on the most serious incidents and strengthen processes to prevent and more effectively manage client incidents.

The new client incident management system will apply to all department delivered services and funded organisations, except hospitals and some community health services that report incidents through the Victorian Health Incident Management System (VHIMS).

The first phase of the work is underway and includes a new model for client incident management. This includes:

  • providing immediate support to clients and prioritising actions following an incident
  • how incidents are categorised (to ensure a stronger focus on the most serious incidents)
  • the approach to investigating incidents
  • how the department and service providers review actions taken following an incident to ensure clients, their families and carers receive the right support
  • how the department and service providers learn from incidents to improve services
  • accountability of the department and service providers.

The second phase of this work will be to implement the new client incident management system.

For more information please email

Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services Data Collection redevelopment project – update

Data Agility, a specialist in Information Management and Business Intelligence, has been awarded the contract to assist the department with identifying and documenting new data collection requirements.

It is anticipated the project will be completed by late 2016. This will allow time for providers to integrate new data collection requirements into the client information management systems, enabling extraction and submission of data for the 2017-18 financial year.

A Project Reference Group (PRG) has been established with representation from a range of providers to ensure the new collection is technically feasible, fit for purpose and applicable across the sector. It is anticipated that the group will meet regularly over the next twelve months.

The data collection redevelopment project commenced in late May and will replace the existing legacy Alcohol and Drug Information System (ADIS).

Victorian Nurse Practitioner Project – second round

Applications for the second round of the Victorian Nurse Practitioner Project (VNPP) Phase 5 will be open in August 2016. Nurse Practitioner models of care based in community, primary care and rural settings will be considered most favourably.

The business case template used in round 5.1 will be unchanged and it is highly recommended that health organisations review this document in preparation. Previously unsuccessful applicants may find that completing this tool strengthens future applications.

2016 Minister for Health Volunteer Awards

Harm Reduction Victoria's DanceWize program has been awarded for 'Outstanding Achievement in Supporting Diversity' in the 2016 Victorian Minister for Health Volunteer Awards.

This award acknowledges the contribution of a volunteer or volunteer team in supporting community connectedness or inclusiveness, particularly for marginalised or isolated clients or community members.

DanceWize is a peer-led harm reduction and education program that offers support to partygoers at Victorian dance parties, festivals and nightclubs to reduce alcohol and other drug related harm.

Congratulations also to Tess Darlington, who was awarded the 'Outstanding Achievement by a Young Volunteer' award, for her work on the Family Drug Help help-line.

Family Drug Help is a program of the Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC), which uses the lived experience of staff and volunteers to reduce alcohol and other drug-related harm to families and friends of a person misusing these substances, and strengthen families in their support of that person.


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