1.9 Alcohol and drug services -

Mr FINCH - Minister, whilst applauding the 14.3 per cent increase in this allocation, an extra $1.2 million, I am just wondering whether you and the department are satisfied with the level of alcohol and drug services that are provided in each region of the State. I am just searching here to see whether there may be deficiencies, and if there are, where they are?

Mr LLEWELLYN - This brief talks about the Tasmanian Alcohol Action Plan. It is certainly a priority -

Mr FINCH - The drug strategy or action plan?

Mr LLEWELLYN - No, action plan. The new Tasmanian Drug Strategy has been drafted by an inter-agency working group on drugs. The alcohol action plan will provide the basis for integrated and well-coordinated services to minimise harm which may be associated with the use of alcohol. The plan will focus on the implementation of further public education on health promotion, enhance professional training, increase access to treatment, including early intervention, patrol policies on the availability, pricing and marketing of alcohol. Such enhanced measures should allow the following aims to be achieved: a reduction in incidence of mortality and morbidity related to this misuse of alcohol; reduce the level of socioeconomic, health and legal costs related to the misuse of alcohol; reduce the incidence of violence including family violence, destruction, antisocial behaviour and crime related to misuse of alcohol; and reduce the incidence of harmful alcohol use in young people.

Obviously, like with a lot of these services, we could put more money into these areas and we obviously have to allocate money on a priority basis. So there is never enough money to go around anywhere really. But we can always put more money into any area of health we like to feature. But I think we are addressing this area in a real and sustainable way.

Mr FINCH - Do regions have allocations?

Mr LLEWELLYN - We have Sylvia Engels here.

Ms ENGELS - We fund a number of non?government organisations and most of those are regionally based. We have a spread of service areas across the State. We continually monitor the level of service in the regions and we are continually working, particularly with the non?government sector, to identify where there may be any gaps. The Government is working at the moment on our new Tasmanian Drug Strategy. That has identified three priority areas which are, as the minister has said, the development of the alcohol action plan, the continuation of the Tasmanian tobacco action plan and also development of strategies particularly targeted towards illicit drug use. That, we are hoping, will be launched early in the new financial year and there is obviously a degree of work that needs to occur at a whole-of-government level.

Mr FINCH - Okay. With the Tasmanian drug strategy starting this year through until 2009, I am just wondering what is the annual cost of the drug strategy? Has it been broken down so that you know what it is going to cost each year? Is it a developing program that might need more each year? Or is it divided evenly?

Mr LLEWELLYN - I take advice on the actual amount of money that is in that particular program.

Ms ENGELS - It is a development program. Initially what is being requested is that each agency will develop actions against the new plan and, as previously stated, it is a whole-of-government initiative and it will hopefully inform where there may be gaps and where we need to address certain issues. Because I think it needs to be recognised that particularly with alcohol, that there are a lot of broader social and health implications than just the use of alcohol.

Mr LLEWELLYN - It will integrate all our existing service providers and most of our service providers are not-for-profit agencies and not government agencies, although we have some services within the government sector itself. The actual work on the ground through the whole-of-government strategy will find its way through to funding of these particular agencies and work that they do in the community.

Mr FINCH - But is there a budget allocation from your department, from your agency, for this strategy?

Mr LLEWELLYN - There is over $100 million that we allocate to non?government agencies for a whole range of things. I would have to aggregate all the money that goes to all the various different agencies that have an involvement with drug and alcohol, in order to give you an answer to the question. That is not going to be very easy. I would need to take that on notice.

Mr FINCH - I would like to have some detail, if I could please, of just what the allocation is for the drug strategy for each of the next five years.

Mr LLEWELLYN - It is still a bit broad, if I might say so, because for instance, other agencies, the Salvation Army and so on, would have various components of their programs aligned with some aspects of the drug and alcohol strategy. So there would not be a full amount of their allocation either. They would have to advise how much money is being spent on this component, then we would have to do that with all these agencies, and there might be 30 of them, and then add them all together.

Mr FINCH - Wouldn't you do that anyway, to keep track of where your money is being spent?

Mr LLEWELLYN - Yes, we know in total what would be allocated to each of those agencies, but it might not all be being used for that specific purpose.

Ms BENT - Can I make the point that it is fairly high-level planning at the moment, and we need -

Mr FINCH - A whole-of-government plan?

Ms BENT - Yes. When we get down to the point of the actual plan, to see where the gaps are, and where the resources are needed, we will be in a position to start quantifying what is needed to develop the services in line with the plan. So that is really the next stage. At this point, we are looking at the broad directions. We are saying, these are what things we aspire to, but it is getting down to the practical level which is the next stage in terms of the actual planning, that will enable us to quantify what the goals are.

Mr FINCH - Okay.

Ms BENT - We have the funding for the services at the moment. With some of that we might be able to change the way the services are delivered to come more in line with the plan, and in some cases there may be amendments, but we have not got to that point yet.

Mr FINCH - Okay, but I would still appreciate some information on the different ones involved, the NGOs, and their level of involvement, and if you cannot quantify it, it is not an issue.

Mr LLEWELLYN - We could probably tell you how much money - although I do not have it in front of me at the moment - that we allocated to the Drug and Alcohol Council, for instance.

Mr FINCH - With regard to the pharmacotherapy program, it is interesting that there is a projection here that there will be more active participants in the program. Does that reflect an increase in drug use, and drug abuse, or is it a greater awareness of the program?

Ms ENGELS - It is a greater awareness of the program. It is trying to build the capacity of the program to meet the current unmet demand.

Mr FINCH - The pharmacotherapy program - just tell me something about it; just how does it work?

Mr LLEWELLYN - It is currently used to identify the range of pharmacotherapy and morphine treatments used to treat opiate dependence, and it includes methadone and morphine. The program currently provides treatment for 586 clients, as at February 2005. That compares with 564 in March 2004, although I think 600 clients were reached earlier in the year. So that is what the program does, and it relies on the GPs and pharmacists to provide methadone and so on and we provide support for those services.

Mr FINCH - Where is that based?

Ms ENGELS - It is statewide.

Mr FINCH - A statewide service? Right. I just heard that some services in the north-west of the State were changed. I think it was the Salvation Army, the way they delivered their alcohol and drug services -

[3.30 p.m.]
Mr LLEWELLYN - Wasn't it the Sulphur Creek one?

Mr FINCH - Sulphur Creek, yes.

Mr LLEWELLYN - The Salvation Army was not providing the service that we were requiring although obviously they could have modified their program to do that but they did not wish to do that and we have now reconstituted that service into the Mersey campus of the -

Ms ENGELS - Launceston City Mission.

Mr LLEWELLYN - Oh, yes, the Launceston City Mission that is right. It was at the Mersey campus temporarily while the Launceston City Mission re?positioned itself and we upgraded the facilities and so on in order to have the service continue.

Mr FINCH - Is that a statewide service?

Ms ENGELS - Local.

Mr LLEWELLYN - There are statewide services but that is just one local service.

Mr FINCH - Is the new program having the desired effect or is it only just new, just getting established?

Mr LLEWELLYN - Since it started I have not - Mr Rockliff has not asked me any more questions.


Mr FINCH - I will leave the questions to him then.