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Ongoing concerns for mandatory drug treatment Bill

​The South Australian Network of Alcohol and other Drugs (SANDAS) representing non-government alcohol and drug treatment services in South Australia, The Youth Affairs Council of SA (YACSA) and the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS)  have significant ongoing concerns about the Controlled Substances (Youth Treatment Orders) Amendment Bill 2019.

The current system that we have for responding to young people with drug and alcohol issues is insufficient. Currently in Australia, due to a lack of resources, only about 50% of people seeking treatment for alcohol and other drug issues are able to obtain it. This means that many people, including young people who seek help cannot get it in a timeframe that meets their needs. In South Australia we have a number of excellent youth treatment services.
However, a number of issues compromise young people’s voluntary engagement including limited access for rural and remote children, lack of culturally safe services for Aboriginal and cultural and linguistically diverse young people in many regions and a lack of intensive family support services. We lack a substantive, state-wide assertive family focussed intervention service of the type that has been found most successful in working with young people.
We call on the Government, with the support of the opposition and cross bench to make the following commitments to address the problem of youth substance using evidence informed health practice.
1. Cost out and fully fund through the forward estimates an intensive family focussed model of therapeutic intervention for working with young people at risk of and engaged in problematic substance use.
2. In regard to the proposed legislation, make changes informed by the alcohol and other drug treatment sector. This will require consultation on the legislation before it is passed. 
Alternatively, make changes to the legislation that reflect the following:
  • Shorten the 12-month maximum period of detention to reflect the models currently used in mental health practice. The 12-month detention period is considerably longer than similar orders in any other legislation where a person has not been charged with or convicted of a crime (e.g., child protection, mental health, aged care, disability).
  • Ensure that any assessment related to a mandatory treatment order is conducted and regularly reviewed by an addiction medicine specialist or specialist alcohol and other drug clinician.
  • Ensure orders are reviewed or terminated at the earliest possible point by the Court with advice from the young person or their representative on application, on the medical advice of the assessing clinician, a formal ‘visitor’ appointed under the Act.
  • Clarify and define that the Bill will only operate where it meets a ‘best interests of the child’ test and a clear framework that ensures that any mandatory treatment is the option of last resort.
  • Ensure there are fundamental considerations of human rights incorporated into the Bill noting that young people mandated under this Act will not necessarily be subject to conviction or diversion creating substantial risks in relation to their human rights.
  • Enshrine visitation rights for families, legal representatives and official visitors.
  • Ensure that if there is a period of detention that this minimally interferes with ongoing education, employment, family and peer engagement and is for the shortest period necessary. Detention must be in a specialist non-correctional environment.
  • That the model of care incorporates a range of interventions prior to detention which includes models of intensive family support and intervention, co-designed with alcohol and other drug treatment experts, young people and families with lived experience.
  • That the model of care incorporates a post care support system that supports the young person and their family for 12 to 18 months post the order to support beneficial changes and prevent relapse.
  • Institute a process of comprehensive and transparent ongoing evaluation of the program from inception and work with providers to ensure that the model is meeting the needs of young people and families. Such evaluation should be particularly aware of the unforeseen consequences that can arise out of interventions when applied to particular individuals.
  • That prior to the finalisation of the model of care appropriate consultation is undertaken to ensure the cultural safety of the model with: o Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander treatment experts, Elders, families and young people o Culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

These recommendations reflect minimum changes. The alcohol and other drug treatment sector would prefer that this bill and the associated model of care are released for formal consultation prior to being proceeded with in Parliament. If this not feasible then once the model of care is defined, the government give time for the consideration of any amendments that may be required to the Bill to enable the model of care.

Published Date: 
Wednesday, 15 May 2019