Diversion from criminal justice system into drug treatment programs doubles over last 10 years

The number of treatment episodes provided to people diverted from the criminal justice system into alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment programs more than doubled in the 10 years to 2012-13, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Alcohol and other drug treatment and diversion from the Australian criminal justice system 2012-13, looks at programs aimed at directing people who have been apprehended or sentenced with a minor drugs offence away from the criminal justice system.

It shows that about 1 in 4 clients who received AOD treatment in 2012-13 had been diverted from the criminal justice system.

'There were 24,069 clients diverted into AOD treatment in 2012-13, comprising 24% of all AOD clients,' said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

Diversion treatment episodes were about twice as likely to involve cannabis as the principal drug of concern compared with episodes for non-diversion clients-cannabis was the principal drug of concern for 43% of diversion treatment episodes compared with 20% for non-diversion episodes. This was followed by alcohol (21% compared with 46%), amphetamines (18% compared with 13%) and heroin (7% compared with 8%).

Diversion clients were generally younger than other AOD treatment clients (25% were aged 10-19 compared with 11% of non-diversion clients), and more likely to be male (80% and 67% respectively).

'Diversion clients were less likely to be Indigenous, with 12% of diversion clients identifying as Indigenous, compared with 15% of non-diversion clients,' Mr Neideck said.

There are two main types of diversion programs commonly used in Australia-police diversion and court diversion. Police diversion occurs when an offence is first detected by a law enforcement officer, and usually applies for minor use or possession offences. Court diversion occurs once a charge is laid and usually involves offences where criminal behaviour was related to drug use (burglary, for example).

'Police diversion episodes had less intensive treatment types compared with court diversion episodes,' Mr Neideck said.

Police diversion episodes were far less likely than court diversion episodes to involve counselling (21% compared with 54%) and support and case management only (1% compared with 15%) as main treatment types, and much more likely to involve information and education only (46% compared with 20%) and assessment only (31% compared with 5%).

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 14 October 2014


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