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17 Dec. 2020

MEDIA RELEASE: Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Services Unaccredited

Please see below media release from the South Australian Network of Drug and Alcohol Services (SANDAS) in relation to the 7:30 Report and article here.

The 7.30 Report entitled ‘Women who would prefer to risk jail instead of living in rehab home’ raises some important issues about unregulated rehabilitation services but also omits critical information in relation to regulated residential rehabilitation services and their accreditation.

Australia has a world leading drug and alcohol treatment sector where services are delivered by a combination of government health departments and the non-government sector. The non-government sector services are charities or for purpose organisations. These services are all accredited and regulated. That is, they are required under their state or federal funding contracts to hold accreditation as a health or community service organisation in line with the National Alcohol and other Drug Quality Framework. If they do not hold appropriate registration or lose it through poor practice, their funding can be withdrawn.

The ‘House of Healing’ referred to in this story is not an accredited, regulated or a government funded service. It is a private service, which should deliver a high quality treatment service provided in a safe place, in return for the fees it charges. In this instance they clearly do not. The state does not regulate these services. It is unclear why they would refer people to them, given the availability of government provided or government funded accredited services.

The courts need to be aware of the difference between a quality accredited and regulated treatment service and an unregulated one. No court should require a person to attend a facility that does not provide minimum standards of care and evidence based treatment. Where the courts mandate a person to attend a service they should be held responsible for any harms that arise from that decision. In this case the courts have clearly failed in their duty of care. Courts should only be placing people with drug or alcohol dependence in services that meet the standards required to receive government funding, until such time as the federal government takes the essential step of requiring accreditation for all alcohol and other drug treatment services.

The story notes, ‘It's estimated that more than a million Australians struggle with drugs and alcohol. It's one of the most common reasons people end up in the criminal justice system but some courts are now sending offenders to rehab as an alternative to prison’.

It is important to note that in South Australia and many other jurisdictions courts have diverted substance dependent people out the of the prison system and into health treatment services. This is in recognition of the fact that whilst possession and use may be criminalised, drug dependence itself is primarily a health issue. Rehabilitation services are an environment in which people can live safely whilst accessing appropriate health and social supports that assist them in reducing or abstaining from alcohol and other drug use. Whilst many people benefit from residential rehabilitation, many more benefit from treatment in their home or community where they can recover from their dependence with appropriate health and social support.
Finally, whilst there are over a million Australians who may need treatment, the capacity of the treatment sector currently runs at approximately 50% of demand. Until the state funds an adequate level of treatment consistent with the known demand, dodgy and dangerous services seeking to exploit vulnerable people will continue to promote ‘treatments’ that are not evidence based health interventions, and harm vulnerable members of our community. In the end, the taxpayer will bear a higher burden compensating those who have been harmed by the states refusal to provide adequate, quality treatment for Australians facing a significant health issue.

In no other sector of health would a totally unqualified individual be legally able to establish a health service without oversight.

The non-government alcohol and other drug sector has been calling for regulation of ‘private’ alcohol and other drug treatment services for over a decade, but successive governments have refused to take on this responsibility. It may take a Royal Commission and some legal cases awarding significant damages to change their minds.

For further information and comment please contact:
Michael White on 0416176611
Executive Officer