Report overview

Alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment agencies across Australia provide a range of services and support to people receiving treatment for their own drug use, as well as for their families and friends. These key findings present high-level information for 2020–21 about publicly funded AOD treatment services, the people they treated, and the treatment provided.

How has COVID-19 impacted on alcohol and other drug treatment services?

In March 2020, a series of measures (including the shutdown of non-essential businesses, public gatherings and travel) were put in place across Australia to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 (Department of Health 2020). These restrictions introduced new challenges for clients accessing alcohol and drug treatment services, such as social distancing measures and changes to support treatment delivery. A number of these measures continued into 2021.

In response to these restrictions, jurisdictions and treatment service providers have made changes to modes of treatment delivery. The aim is to support flexible treatment delivery and maintain the health and safety of clients and treatment service providers. These changes varied across jurisdictions, which included:

  • decreased bed capacity at residential rehabilitation and withdrawal services, or closure of services for a period of time 
  • ceased or reduced intake of new clients to residential rehabilitation and withdrawal services
  • adoption of telehealth including using phone, online and video conferencing (to deliver services in place of face-to-face contact)
  • group sessions were cancelled, or moved to telehealth forums
  • prescription review periods increased
  • increased wait time periods between referrals and admissions to AOD treatment due to reduced capacity.

Health (Department of Health) 2020. Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) coronavirus (COVID-19) statement on 18 March 2020. Canberra: DoH. Viewed 9 December 2020.