The cost of booze


The government is spending about $60m a year on alcohol and other drug services, which is in addition to funding provided through the Commonwealth Government to GPs, Aboriginal medical services, counselling or other support services.
These NGOs are providing a large proportion of the service system, according to a report by the Menzies School of Health Research and the University of NSW, in partnership with the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT.
The report has been released by Minister for Health, Natasha Fyles.
“Indeed, 88% of treatment services in the NT, based on episodes of care and encounters, are currently delivered by non-specialist service providers,” says a spokesman for the Minister.
The findings of the report will feed into the development of an Alcohol Treatment Services Plan for the NT, as recommended in the Riley Review.
That plan is due for completion by the end of this year, and will run for five years, with the possibility of annual expenditure rising.
The study, costing $520,000 over two years, found there were 42,871 episodes or encounters for alcohol treatment in NT in 2016/17, equating to 117 encounters every day.
An estimated 6400-8000 people per year currently access some form of treatment, with counselling the most prevalent form.
We asked what has been the trend of this number over the past 10 years?
“This trend was not part of the study’s methodology,” says the spokesman, and neither were the findings put into a national context, such as comparing the numbers of people being treated per 100,000 population.
What is the cost per participant – patient – in these activities in the NT compared with the corresponding national figure, we asked.
“This is unclear, but simplistic comparisons are unwise. The NT context  – remoteness and geography, cultural relevance, population size and mobility – are vastly different to other jurisdictions.
“The NT Government funds Menzies for overall independent research capacity including alcohol research.
“Additional funding is provided for specific alcohol research projects including obtaining additional expertise from interstate research bodies as required.
“The Menzies alcohol, other drugs and gambling research team has grown from three to 12 people over the past 16 months, partly through research projects like the demand study.”
Ms Fyles says in her media release: “The reviewers found there is a large unmet demand for screening and brief intervention, in the order of 18,500 to 19,000 people.
“The study found the availability of specialist alcohol treatment services for those with the most severe problems is largely meeting the expected demand, however more screening and brief interventions by generalist services is required for those in the mild and moderate categories.”
Says the spokesman: “The study should be seen as the first comprehensive approximation of met and unmet demand for alcohol treatment services in the NT.
“This plan will be overseen by the AOD (alcohol and other drugs) Coordination Group, consisting of non-government and government service providers.
“An important concept outlined at the beginning of the study was that specialist care is only one part of the alcohol treatment services system.
“That is, there are other non-specialist treatment providers such as GPs, primary health care providers, ACCHOs (Aboriginal community controlled health organisations) and self-help groups that play an important role within the broader alcohol treatment services system.
“The AOD treatment services plan will have its major focus on the targeted and strategic investment of NT government agencies – predominantly Health, with some Corrections and Territory Families – and to align and complement service development with Commonwealth funding which comes through the NTPHN (primary health network).
Meanwhile neither the hospital nor the police have so far granted the request from the Alice Springs News for access to the raw data allegedly proving massive decreases of alcohol related crime.


  1. From the perspective of a dog walker, whatever the current government is doing to reduce at least the level of drinking in public, it’s working.
    I used to carry two shopping bags to collect empties.
    Now I carry one, and as often as not bring it home empty.
    Nor am I seeing the windrows of empty plastic wine bottles.


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