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Evaluation finds Northern Territory's mandatory alcohol rehabilitation program costly, with no impact

Date posted: 26 April 2017

An evaluation of the Northern Territory's (NT) compulsory alcohol rehabilitation, conducted by PwC's Indigenous Consulting and the Menzies School of Health Research, was commissioned by the previous territory government. It was handed to the NT Health Department in January 2017, and it has found that the $18 million could have been better spent.

The review also found that blockages in the system, including a lack of beds and staff at assessment centres, meant that up to half the people who could potentially benefit from the treatment were excluded from the process. With no identifiable or measurable health impacts, the new Health Minister, Natasha Fyles, said that that it 'was a costly program that delivered minimal long term gains for the relatively few people who participated.'

The scheme was introduced by the former Territory government in July 2013, in spite of opposition from health, legal, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community groups, who argued that the program targeted homeless Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, criminalising a health issue in the process.

The reviewers found that there were limitations to what they could say about the effectiveness of the scheme that costs at least $18 million a year to run. The report concedes the evaluation was difficult, due to a lack of sound logic. 'The program was implemented without a program logic or theory of change model and without an evaluation framework,' the report states.

While people in mandatory treatment were given practical help to get their finances organised or to find accommodation, the report stated problems such as a lack of public housing or difficulties returning to remote communities meant people often ended up homeless again once finished the mandatory treatment.

The current Territory government has declared that the program will be abandoned, and re-introduce its own alcohol policy: the banned drinker register, which is a list of problem drinkers banned from buying take-away alcohol.

It is understood that the register has yet to be evaluated.

Source: ABC News

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Last updated: 1 May 2017
 
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Australia's National Research Centre on AOD Workforce Development National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre National Drug Research Institute