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Hi all,

We hope you enjoyed a few days' rest over the recent Easter break.

2019 is set to be another year of exciting development and expansion in the Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) sector. In this e-news, we

  • highlight development in residential rehabilitation
  • update you on the progress on a number of significant initiatives that are underway including the Harm Reduction Services Framework, catchment boundary reaalignment, forensic target review, Royal Commission in to Mental Health and the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Collection.

We hope this helps inform our collective efforts for the year ahead.

As always, we welcome your feedback on this bulletin, including on any topics you would like to see included in future editions. Comments can be provided by emailing

Michael West, Assistant Director, Drug Policy and Reform

Traralgon Youth Residential Rehabilitation

In September 2018, a new 20 bed Youth Residential Rehabilitation Service was announced to be established in the Latrobe Valley. This service will be established at Lot 1 Northern Avenue Traralgon.

On 3 April 2019 a community information session was held to provide an opportunity for the community to learn more about the service and ask questions. The session was attended by approximately 40 local residents and several service providers. A call for submissions to identify a provider to operate this service closed 18 April 2019.

A current call for submissions for the design and planning phase of the construction of the facility is underway with the appointment of a builder to occur early 2020. The addition of these 20 new beds will increase the current youth residential rehabilitation capacity by 74% once all beds are operational. The service is planned to be up and running late 2020-21.

Harm Reduction Services Framework

The Department of Health and Human Services (the department) is creating a Harm Reduction Services Framework (the Framework), which will establish shared objectives and principles for the delivery of our funded specialist harm reduction services.

We expect the Framework will also provide useful guidance to any organisation that works with people who use drugs, as it will capture harm reduction's core aims and ways of working.

We recently finished the consultation phase, which included an all-day forum in early March and an online survey (supported by a discussion paper). Thank you for the feedback, suggestions and collaboration to date.

Some key feedback received so far included:

  • The need for service objectives and principles to be expressed plainly and using positive/empowering language; emphasising service flexibility and self-determination ('meeting people where they are'); and a fair balance being struck between evidence and innovation (generating new evidence)
  • Avoiding duplication with other frameworks and guidelines
  • The need for frameworks to be connected with practical action on the ground.
The department is now analysing and consolidating feedback from the consultation phase, with the aim of finalising the Framework by late June 2019. An Advisory Committee is also assisting in the Framework's development.

Victorian Alcohol and Drug Collection

The department would like to acknowledge the significant effort all AOD providers have taken over the 18/19 financial year to transition from the Alcohol and Drug Information System (ADIS) to VADC collection. All funded providers have now transitioned to VADC from ADIS. 

Thank you to providers that have committed to timely data submission and correction of errors. Service providers are encouraged to continue to embed data quality improvement measures and processes to avoid or resolve data submission errors, in line with specifications and VADC bulletin releases. 

In collaboration with service providers, VAADA, VAHI and the department, the VADC sector report development workshop groups are being convened to ensure that VADC data is fed back to the sector to support service provider’s delivery and planning needs. 

From July 2019, changes to VADC will come into effect to support emerging needs. Changes have been made to reflect the transition to Drug Treatment Activity Unit funding for residential services, as well as support Primary Health Network (PHN) funded agencies transition to VADC in line with local PHN governance requirements.

Our ultimate goal is to have data that allows us to clearly understand demand that will assist providers in the delivery of services. We expect that during 2019-20 VADC will mature as a data collection system. During this time corrections may still need to occur. We encourage you to work with your VADC contact to resolve any issues.

Alcohol and other Drug Research Innovation Agenda

In February, the government announced the Alcohol and other Drug Research Innovation Agenda (ADRIA).

The fund will provide $4 million over four years to support the advancement of innovation and good practice in the Victorian AOD system. More information on applying for research grants through ADRIA will be available later this year.

The Expert Advisory Committee (Drugs of Dependence)

The Expert Advisory Committee on the potential misuse of drugs of dependence brings together a group of highly experienced addiction medicine specialists, pain management specialists, pharmacists and other clinical subject matter experts on a quarterly basis to discuss the changing landscape of drugs of dependence both licit and illicit and how to respond to this in the medical context. 

The most recent meetings have focused on emerging pharmacotherapy delivery systems, review of the Victorian pharmacotherapy policy, the overlap and treatment of chronic pain and opioid dependence, reducing stigma barriers and workforce development and retention.

In addition, long acting buprenorphine will soon enter the product familiarisation phase. The clinical guidance addendum is being updated to provide advice on administration on this medicine. 

Forensic AOD Target Review and System Settings Project

The department hosted a second and final AOD sector workshop on 21 February 2019 to inform a current project that is reviewing forensic AOD treatment targets and system settings.

The department established this project to explore a range of causal factors (including systemic) that have been impacting on AOD treatment's providers' ability to meet minimum forensic targets in recent years. The project will provide recommendations on new system settings and revised forensic targets to be in place from 1 July 2019 for all state-funded AOD providers delivering services to forensic clients.

Forensic AOD Training Update

The department has funded three new forensic specific training courses for AOD clinicians which have been delivered since early 2019. These courses are designed to enhance key clinical skills to enable AOD clinicians to better work with forensic clients.

The e-learning module 'Forensic Foundations' was launched in February 2019 and is available to all AOD clinicians who would like to learn more about working with forensic clients. 

We have had a lot of positive engagement from across the AOD sector with the half-day face-to-face 'Forensic Fundamentals' course with around 930 AOD workers registered so far. We will be shortly releasing information about the 1 day face-to-face course 'Forensic Specialist' which will be targeted at the more senior clinicians who work with high-risk forensic clients with highly complex needs. It is anticipated that this training will start being delivered from May 2019.  

While the half-day face-to-face course will be delivered state-wide over an initial three month period, it will continue to be delivered on an ongoing registration-of-interest basis after April 2019.

If you have any queries regarding the training get in touch with the below contacts:

Royal Commission into Mental Health

On 24 February 2019, the Victorian Government established the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System the first of its kind in Australia.

The Royal Commission is a once in a generation opportunity to find out what is working and what is not, to ensure we have a mental health system that people in Victorian deserve. The Royal Commission also provides an opportunity for a wider community conversation about mental health – toward ending stigma and discrimination.

The Royal Commission has been asked to provide a comprehensive set of recommendations on how to best support Victorians with mental illness, including Victorians at risk of suicide

Each year, one in five Victorians experience some degree of mental illness. That’s approximately 1.2 million people. Mental illness can affect people of all ages, from all backgrounds, in all locations across Victoria.

The Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference were finalised with the community’s input, and they provide direction for the inquiry and set out expectations regarding the Commission’s program of work. The Commission will work to deliver recommendations that improve outcomes for Victorians who experience mental illness.

Members of the Victorian community can now share their experiences and ideas for improvements online as part of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.  

Launched recently, the Royal Commission’s new digital portal allows organisations and members of the public to contribute online as a written submission, images, audit or video content. Contributions can be brief comments or longer formal submissions. Formal submissions close on 5 July 2019. 

The department encourages everyone to take the opportunity to engage with the Royal Commission, either via the new portal or community consultation sessions running throughout April and May. 

For further information on the Royal Commission, please visit their website at

The Royal Commission will deliver an interim report by November 2019 and a final report by October 2020. The Victorian Government has already committed to implementing all recommendations.

If you or a family member has immediate concerns or require assistance, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

North Richmond precinct development

On 20 April 2019, Minister for Mental Health, Martin Foley and Member for Richmond, Richard Wynne announced a package of improvements to save more lives from overdose and respond to community concerns about safety and wellbeing in the area.  

These activities will increase security, amenity and street cleanliness across the precinct and include:

  • more frequent street sweeps to remove needles
  • more alcohol and drug outreach teams providing help on the street
  • an increased security presence and better lighting on the Richmond housing estate.

These actions will complement the City of Yarra's decision to increase street cleaning activities in the Victoria St precinct.

Since the medically supervised injecting room opened in mid-2018, staff have safely responded to over 650 overdoses, many of which may otherwise have been fatal. More than 2,200 people have used the facility and are able to access co-located health and social support services.

Early Ambulance Victoria data is promising, showing a decrease in drug-related call-outs during opening hours – reversing the trend in recent years.

Building on these positive results, the service’s opening hours will extend by three hours a day once operations transition to the larger, purpose-built facility in the coming months. The move will ensure more capacity and more consulting rooms for the full range of services to help clients access the treatment and support they need, when they need it.

The department is working with multiple stakeholders to progress other longer-term actions to address long-standing community health, wellbeing and safety in North Richmond, with further engagement activities to follow over the coming months.

Catchment Boundary Alignment

The Department of Health and Human Services (the department) operates across 17 areas, while alcohol and other drug (AOD) services are funded in 16 AOD catchments or 8 historical regions. The department is in the process of aligning the AOD catchments and regions with the 17 departmental areas to improve service planning and integration.

The department has been working with organisations in affected areas to manage the change. These changes will have minimal to no impact on service access and clients. The implementation date for these changes was to be 1 July 2019 however, due to a number of circumstances, has now been delayed. The new implementation date will be communicated to affected organisations and the sector soon.

Department of Health and Human Services and Primary Health Networks Shared Priority

Statewide approaches to AOD services is a shared priority of the six PHNs, the department, and the Commonwealth Government. The department and the six PHNs have partnered to implement a shared program of work to focus on building capability and capacity urge primary care sector to address AOD issues.

A workplan is under development that will focus on: enhancing primary care capacity for AOD prevention and early intervention, and integration and linkage with specialist AOD services; mapping specialist referral pathways between primary care and specialist AOD services, and maximising strategies to enhance linked service responses; and developing strategies and processes to support co-commissioning by PHNs and the department for better results.

As this project enters the implementation phase it is expected that there will be opportunities for the AOD sector to come together to provide advice on actions required to build capacity in primary care, particularly in relation to linking specific services to General Practitioners. 

The Pharmacotherapy Area-Based Networks

The Pharmacotherapy Area-Based Networks (PABNs) support health professionals across Victoria to prevent, identify and manage opioid dependence and maximise safe prescribing. For more information and to find your local support please visit Pharmacotherapy Area-Based Networks.



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