Technical notes

Data source: Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander health organisations: AOD treatment services

28 Jun 2017

In relation to substance-use issues, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health-care services provide:

  • health care, including extended care roles (for example, diagnosis and treatment of illness and disease, 24-hour emergency care, dental/hearing/optometry services)
  • preventive health care (for example, health screening for children and adults),
  • health-related community support (for example, school-based activities, transport to medical appointments), and
  • support.

Information on the majority of Australian Government-funded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander substance use services are available from the Online Services Report (OSR) data collection. While the number of treatment episodes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is reported through the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Data Set (AODTS NMDS), it does not represent all alcohol and other drug treatments provided to Indigenous people in Australia. The OSR and AODTS NMDS have different collection purposes, scope and counting rules (see Box 1 for details).

Key data from the 2015–16 OSR relevant to substance-use issues are provided below.

Substance use issues

The 5 most common substance-use issues reported by organisations providing substance-use services in 2015–16, in terms of staff time and organisational resources, were alcohol, cannabis or marijuana, amphetamines, multiple drug use and tobacco or nicotine (Table 1). In 2015–16, all of the 80 organisations reported alcohol as one of their 5 most common substance-use issues and almost all (94%) reported cannabis or marijuana. Organisations reporting amphetamines as a common substance-use issue increased from 45% in 2013–14 to 70% in 2014–15, and increased again to 79% in 2015–16. This pattern was consistent across remoteness areas.

Table 1: Number of organisations reporting common substance-use issues, by remoteness area, 2015–16

Substance use issue Major
cities
Inner regional Outer regional Remote Very
remote
Total
Alcohol 16 14 19 16 15 80
Cannabis/marijuana 13 13 18 16 15 75
Amphetamines 15 13 17 10 8 63
Multiple drug use 12 10 14 7 6 49
Tobacco/nicotine 6 8 12 9 11 46

Note: Organisations were asked to report on their 5 most important substance-use issues in terms of staff time and organisational resources.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2017. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations: Online Services Report—key results 2015–16. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services report No. 8. Cat. no. IHW 180. Canberra: AIHW.

Substance-use services

In 2015–16, OSR substance-use services provided:

  • around 170,370 episodes
  • to around 32,740 clients
  • by 80 organisations (Table 2).

Table 2: Number of substance-use organisations, clients and episodes, by remoteness area, 2015–16

  Organisations
No.
Organisations
%
No. Clients
%
Episodes
No.
Episodes
%
Major cities 16 20.0 11,297 34.5 46,360 27.2
Inner regional 14 17.5 2,149 6.6 13,727 8.1
Outer regional 19 23.8 5,217 15.9 30,698 18.0
Remote 16 20.0 9,248 28.2 25,091 14.7
Very remote 15 18.8 4,829 14.7 54,494 32.0
Total 80 100.0 32,740 100.0 170,370 100.0

Notes:

  1. Client numbers for 2012–13 and 2013–14 have been revised down due to data quality issues discovered in this year’s collection that were also occurring in these years. Errors in the data extracted from the PIRS of a few primary health-care organisations were found.
  2. In 2014–15, the reporting period was 1 June 2014 to 31 May 2015. Before 2014–15, it was the financial year from 1 July to 30 June.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2017. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations: Online Services Report—key results 2015–16. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services report No. 8. Cat. no. IHW 180. Canberra: AIHW.

By remoteness area:

  • Nearly one-quarter (24%) of organisations were located in Outer regional areas, while one-fifth were in both Remote areas (20%)and Major cities (20%).
  • Organisations in Outer regional areas provided services to around 5,200 (16%) clients, while organisations in Very remote areas provided services to around 4,800 (15%) clients.

Substance use treatment

Substance-use organisations provide treatment and assistance through residential treatment programs, sobering-up services and non-residential programs. In 2015–16:

  • just over half of clients (54%) receiving treatment were male
  • most episodes of care (87%) were for non-residential services (e.g. counselling), and male and female clients were equally likely to seek this type of treatment (a change from previous years, when female clients were slightly more likely to seek this type of treatment)
  • around 18,400 episodes of care (11%) were provided to clients accessing sobering-up services (overnight residential care, with no formal rehabilitation)
  • 8% of clients received treatment in a residential service (temporary live-in accommodation for formal substance-use treatment and rehabilitation) (Table 3).

Table 3: Estimated number of clients and episodes of care, by sex and treatment type, 2015–16

Treatment type Male
No.
Male
%
Female
No.
Female
%
Unknown
No.
Unknown
%
Total
No.
Total
%
Clients                
Residential 1,984 9.9 782 4.7 78 11.0 2,844 7.6
Sobering-up 3,983 19.9 4,095 24.6 2 0.3 8,080 21.6
Non-residential 14,084 70.2 11,751 70.7 632 88.8 26,467 70.8
Total 20,051 53.6 16,628 44.5 712 1.9 37,391 100.0
Episodes                
Residential 2,200 2.5 894 1.1 79 6.0 3,173 1.9
Sobering-up 9,586 11.0 8,767 10.8 2 0.2 18,355 10.8
Non-residential 75,725 86.5 71,888 88.2 1,229 93.8 148,842 87.4
Total 87,511 51.4 81,549 47.9 1,310 0.8 170,370 100.0

Note: Client numbers will differ to those presented in Table 2 as clients may be counted more than once if they attended multiple programs. In addition, data from some organisations have been excluded due to data quality issues.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2017. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations: Online Services Report—key results 2015–16. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services report No. 8. Cat. no. IHW 180. Canberra: AIHW.

Box 1: Comparison of treatment episode definitions in the OSR and AODTS NMDS

The OSR definition of ‘episode of care’ starts at admission and ends at discharge (for residential treatment/rehabilitation and sobering-up/respite). ‘Other care’ refers to non-residential programs where the definition of ‘episode of care’ relates more to the number of visits or phone calls undertaken with clients. In contrast to the definition of ‘closed treatment episode’ used in the AODTS NMDS, the definition used in this collection does not require agencies to begin a new ‘episode of care’ when the main treatment type (‘treatment type’) or primary drug of concern (‘substance/drug’) changes. It is therefore likely that this concept of ‘episode of care’ produces smaller estimates of activity than the AODTS NMDS concept of ‘closed treatment episode’.

The OSR collection, managed by the AIHW, records information about clients of any age, whereas the AODTS NMDS reports only about clients aged 10 and over.

These differences mean that the two collections are not directly comparable.