31st Oct 2014

Health Minister Lambley takes alcohol treatment in NT to new level

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress applauds Health and Alcohol Rehabilitation Minister, Robyn Lambley for the implementation of key recommendations made by the Alcohol Mandatory Treatment review.

“The decision to decriminalise the treatment process has completely changed the outlook for AMT,” said Congress CEO, Donna Ah Chee.

“The Health Minister had always indicated her concern for this aspect of the AMT system and she has shown great leadership within the NT Government to have this important reform endorsed by her cabinet colleagues,” she continued.

“Additionally, the decision to allow medical practitioners to refer alcohol dependent patients to the AMT is also welcome as this brings the legislation largely in line with the Volatile Substance Misuse Act which has been found to work well for the treatment of petrol sniffers for many years.

“Congress has been advised that there are fewer clients admitted into AMT given the decline in public drunkenness due to the success of the TBL strategy since its implementation earlier this year. These empty beds can now be used for other alcohol dependant clients in need of treatment, before a client is subject to the 3 Protective Custody apprehensions through the police.

“Alcohol dependence is essentially a chronic relapsing brain disease. It is often clear to medical providers, especially the Emergency Department at Alice Springs Hospital, when a patient’s drinking is out of control and immediately life threatening and/or when they are likely to pose harm to themselves or others, and this is now sufficient evidence to refer a client to AMT.

“Now the AMT system can be seen as a legitimate innovation as we all work together to see whether it will be of benefit to people who have been unable to stop drinking and who are at severe risk of premature death. The system will need to be closely evaluated to assess the outcomes being achieved as this is still a largely untried approach throughout the world and it is vital to know whether it works. In this regard Congress also welcomes the prior commitment of the Minister to a proper evaluation of AMT.

“It will be vital to link the continuing care of clients who begin in AMT through integration and referral to alcohol treatment services within the primary health care sector, delivered to clients in their home communities. Congress is keen to see the full integration of AMT with our Safe and Sober Support Service now that the criminalisation barrier has been removed. We will be better able to ensure seamless, continuing care is provided for AMT clients in Alice Springs.

“This decision has also been made at the same time as the important decision to ban smoking in vehicles containing children under 16.

“In a single day Health Minister Lambley has led the NT into a much stronger public health position on alcohol and tobacco – the two major drugs that are causing so many health problems for Aboriginal communities,” Ms Ah Chee concluded.