A quarter of a million Australians use alcohol and drug treatment services—but another 200,000 miss out

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Reform of the alcohol and other drugs treatment sector is urgently needed in Australia, a coalition of health and drug dependence organisations has claimed in a pre-Budget submission to the Australian Government released today.

The organisations are seeking bi-partisan support for reform, and include Uniting, St Vincent’s Health Australia, the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, the State and Territory Alcohol and Other Drugs Peaks Network, Drug and Alcohol Nurses of Australasia, and the Ted Noffs Foundation, plus other professional societies, research centres and consumer representatives.

St Vincent’s Health Australia CEO Toby Hall said that due to stigma, poor planning and a lack of resources the sector has for several years been unable to cope effectively with demand.

‘We are therefore calling for bipartisan support for new money for 3 key areas:

  1. improving the size and focus of investment across the alcohol and other drugs treatment sector
  2. establishing an independent national Alcohol and Other Drugs Executive Agency to lead system reform, work to end stigma and discrimination, improve accountability and oversee improvement strategies
  3. investing in services, infrastructure and workforce.

‘Reform across Australia’s alcohol and other drugs treatment sector and the commitment of new funding will go a long way to ensuring that people who want and need treatment for problematic use of alcohol and other drugs can get it.’

Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said ‘The time has come where we really have to say enough is enough—no more band aid solutions, and no more constantly trying to catch a problem that keeps moving beyond reach no matter how much we try to ramp things up with what we’ve got.

‘We have the evidence to back up what we are claiming and to justify what we think is needed.

‘That evidence shows an all-too-real chronic undersupply of treatment services available relative to demand.

 ‘An additional $1.2 billion dollars per year is needed on top of the $1.2 billion already spent on treatment services for those with problematic and risky use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances—to the point where they harm themselves, their families and communities. 

‘The best services are those of high quality delivered early—intervention at an early stage obviously gives the best chances of minimising escalation of a problem and the length of time people and their families suffer the harms caused by misuse of these substances.’


The Reform of the alcohol and other drugs treatment sector pre-Budget submission is available here.

See below for list of supporting organisations.

Media enquiries:  

Jo-Anne Chapman, Group Manager Policy and Government,

St Vincent’s Health Australia, 0447 039 716

Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, AHHA, 0403 282 501


Supporting organisations—Reform of the alcohol and other drugs treatment sector

1.            NADA – Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies

2.            DANA – Drug and Alcohol Nurses of Australasia

3.            AHHA – Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association

4.            WANADA – Western Australian Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies

5.            APSAD – Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs

6.            Uniting (Vic/Tas)

7.            AADANT – Association of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies (NT)

8.            NUAA – NSW Users and AIDS Association

9.            VAADA – Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association

10.          HSM – Hello Sunday Morning

11.          FARE – Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education

12.          ATDC – Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Council of Tasmania

13.          SVHA – St Vincent’s Health Australia

14.          Holyoake – Family, Individuals, Youth

15.          SANDAS – South Australian Network of Drug and Alcohol Services

16.          Penington Institute

17.          ATODA – Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT

18.          ADF – Alcohol and Drug Foundation

19.          Uniting Care Australia

20.          Ted Noffs Foundation