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Hi all,

As 2019 draws to a close, we reflect on some of the significant achievements in Victorian AOD services. This has been a dynamic year with significant and enviable progress in evolving and expanding the AOD system in Victoria. Some highlights include:

  • Enhancement of forensic AOD policy and practice, including development and delivery of customised training modules, and frameworks for performance management, collaborative practice and forensic AOD governance
  • Extended capacity for the Medically Supervised Injecting Room and north Richmond precinct development
  • Continued progress in the expansion of residential rehabilitation services in Corio, Wangaratta, Bairnsdale, and Traralgon (for young people)
  • Establishment of the Expert Advisory Committee for Potential Misuse of Drugs of Dependence
  • Full sector implementation of the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Collection  
  • Publication of Power of Words, an evidence-based guide on non-stigmatising language when working or talking about people who use AOD
  • Across the sector, some great work including Penington Institute’s International Overdose Awareness Day event; Harm Reduction Victoria’s DanceWize program; VAADA conference(s); 
  • Commitment to repeal Public Drunkenness laws and develop a health response
  • Continued expansion of Aboriginal AOD workforce
  • Release of the Needle and Syringe Exchange program resources.

These could not have been achieved without your contribution. Many thanks to each of you for your willingness to collaborate, your frank advice and guidance, your suggestions for innovation, your ongoing advocacy and your generosity in working to make the world a better place for people experiencing AOD related harms. On behalf of the Drug Policy and Reform team I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge your effort and ongoing commitment, and hope you get a chance to take a well-earned break over the summer months.

We look forward to continuing to work with you in 2020. As always, we welcome your feedback on this bulletin, including any topics you would like to see included in future editions. Comments can be provided by emailing

We wish you and your loved ones a joyful, safe and relaxing festive season.

Michael West, Acting Assistant Director, Drug Policy and Reform

Department of Health and Human Services Excellence Awards

The Department of Health and Human Services Excellence Awards (Awards) are an annual staff recognition program that acknowledges staff achievements and contributions. 

For the 2019 Awards, there were 200 applications from across the department which were assessed at various stages by 90 different people, and out of the seven general categories available, the Drug Policy and Reform Unit won three:

  • Innovation Award – Forensic Alcohol and Other Drugs Team
  • Collaboration Award – Alcohol and Other Drugs Harm Reduction Program
  • Young Achiever Award – Kristal Allison. 

I am very proud of my team, but moreover of the great strides achieved in AOD reform in recent years, and the high level of enthusiasm, innovation and collaboration within the AOD sector. Once again thank you for working with us to deliver these important reforms.

DHHS and PHN Collaboration

Victorian Primary Health Networks (PHN) are working with the department to develop a framework for collaborative planning and service system development to support better integration of AOD services across the service system. 

An initial review and analysis of the AOD and primary care service systems has been undertaken. This will be used to assess opportunities for integration and determine priorities for future options for co-commissioning. In the meantime, AOD content has been developed for Health Pathways, an online resource providing clear and concise guidance for assessing and managing patients, and referrals to local services.

AOD Workforce Reference Group

The AOD Workforce Reference Group (Reference Group) will provide strategic advice around the implementation of the Victorian AOD Workforce Strategy 2018-22. It is  designed to build a skilled, available and sustainable AOD workforce to meet the needs of people experiencing substance related harm. The Reference Group includes consumers, representatives from VADDA, youth, residential and treatment AOD services, Primary Health Networks, VACCHOs, education providers, acute and primary health services, pharmacists and relevant areas of the department. 

The inaugural meeting in early December was focused on the outcomes of the AOD workforce and AOD agency surveys and the implications for the AOD Workforce Strategy 2018-22. The key recommendations from the reports issued by the Australian Productivity Commission and Royal Commission into mental health were also discussed. The Reference Group will meet quarterly from February 2020.

Expert Advisory Committee on Potential Misuse of Drugs of Dependence

The Expert Advisory Committee on Potential Misuse of Drugs of Dependence (Committee) was recently established and will be the main forum for the department to engage with stakeholders in relation to pharmacotherapy practice and other issues related to the prescription of opioids or other drugs of dependence.

The Committee will meet quarterly, and:

  • support the ongoing development in the Victorian pharmacotherapy system and the effective management of all drugs of dependence (not just opioids), by providing advice on enablers and barriers to effective clinical practice, opportunities and strategies to improve the clinical management of drugs of dependence, ensuring effective system-wide delivery of emerging initiatives and strategic issues that will inform the development of future policy and regulation related to drugs of dependence
  • provide advice and a governance function for operational and policy settings for the ongoing operations of the SafeScript initiative which will be mandated across Victoria in April 2020. The committee will act as a sounding board for policies regarding SafeScript as well as advice on review of the monitored medications in SafeScript.

The scope of the committee in relation to the potential misuse of drugs of dependence will be limited to issues around prescription drugs of dependence and treatments, which can be grouped into three main themes:

  • prevention of prescription drug dependency
  • pharmaceutical treatment of drug dependency (both opioid and non-opioid), 
  • policy and regulatory issues surrounding the use of prescribed drugs of dependence and pharmaceutical treatments. 

Alcohol and Other Drug Forum (21 November)

Alcohol and Other Drug Forum (21 November) 

The AOD Forum was well attended with at least 75 people attending in person and several others dialling-in to the teleconference line. Key topics included:

  • AOD ‘Mythbusters’ quiz – hosted by Paul ‘Baby John’ Maher and Anna ‘Queen of Quizzes’ Keato
  • Flexibility in service provision – case study session where groups discussed creative solutions to common scenarios where flexible responses were needed for clients to access appropriate support 
  • Performance management – presentation and panel discussion 
  • AOD data reporting – presented by Daniel Mendoza from the Victorian Agency for Health Information.
We received very positive feedback from attendees, who also made great suggestions for future forums, including allowing more time for discussion, and topics (e.g. implications for AOD from the Royal Commission into Mental Health; and an ACCO-specific forum).

Victorian Alcohol and Drug Collection (VADC)

The 2019-20 version of the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Collection (VADC) has been deployed. As at 3 December, 98.75% of the 240 currently active outlets have submitted October 2019 VADC data.

In response to feedback from the AOD sector, the department is taking a more collaborative approach to further embedding the VADC in the AOD system. As a result, the following groups were established and will operate on an on-going basis:

  • Change Management Governance Group, which will consider annual revisions to the VADC to ensure it is fit for purpose, reflects practice and provides invaluable insights into the client journey. This group consists of clinical staff and health information technical staff. They met on 29 November
  • Change Control Group, which will consider recommendations made by the Change Management Governance Group, establish and implement the change management process, and assess the impact of revisions for the sector to ensure a coordinated, transparent approach to addressing changes. This group consists of departmental staff, senior executives from AOD service providers and VACCHO. They met on 13 December.
Find out more about VADC.

Public Drunkeness

 In August this year, the government made an in-principle commitment to repeal public drunkenness laws and replace them with a public health model for responding to public drunkenness. The Attorney-General’s media release can be found here

The unit, in partnership with the Department of Justice and Community Safety, is developing the public health model as informed by extensive consultation that occurred during October – November 2019. We hope to have more news on this important reform in April 2020. 


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