Treatment referral and completion

Treatment referrals are part of treatment interventions that aim to reduce immediate or short-term harms; engage and support people; and refer people into treatment. As part of care co-ordination and case management involves ongoing treatment planning, goal setting, review and facilitation for the client to achieve their goals including a supported referral and system navigation support to other services, as required. It includes ensuring links are made with health or social welfare services, and that care is coordinated across care settings and systems (Department of Health 2019).

Key findings

In 2019–20:​

  • self/family was the most common source of referral (35%)
  • over three quarters (77%) of episodes ended within 3 months
  • around 3 in 5 (59%) episodes had an expected/planned completion
  • the median duration of episodes for clients’ own alcohol or drug use was almost 4 weeks (26 days), while that of support for someone else’s alcohol or drug use was longer, 5 weeks (35 days).

Over the 10-year period to 2019–20:

  • source of referrals for self/family for a clients’ own alcohol or drug use decreased from 39% in 2010–11 to 35% in 2019–20
  • the proportion of episodes with an expected cessation decreased from 68% to 59%. 

In 2019–20, for all clients:

  • The most common source of referral treatment episodes were self/family (36% or 84,495 episodes) followed by health services (32% or 77,135 episodes);
    • this referral pattern was consistent for most treatment types, with the exception of main treatment provided as information and education where police and court diversion was the most common source of referral (62%)
    • health services being the most common referrals for other treatment (36%) and assessment only (27%) (Table ST.14).

Where referral source was an ‘other’ source, closed treatment episodes increased from the previous year from 17% to 19% in 2019–20 for a client’s own alcohol or drug use and from 8% to 35% for someone else’s alcohol or drug use.

The most common sources of referrals for both groups of clients were similar in 2019–20. Referral episodes from:

  • Self/family were most common: 35% for a client’s own alcohol or drug use, and 40% for clients receiving treatment for someone else’s alcohol or drug use.
  • a health service were also common: 33% and 25%, respectively.

Over the 10-year period to 2019–20, treatment episodes where the referral source was:

  • self/family for a clients’ own alcohol or drug use; decreased from 39% in 2010–11 to 35% in 2019–20
  • self/family referrals for someone else’s alcohol or drug use; increased from 61% in 2010–11 to 64% in 2014–15 and then decreased to 40% in 2019–20
  • a health service; increased for both clients seeking treatment for their own alcohol or drug use (from 27% to 33%), and for clients seeking support for someone else’s alcohol or drug use (from 18% to 25%) (Table SE.15).

The source of referral varied according to clients’ principal drug of concern. In 2019–20, for example, among episodes for a client’s own alcohol or drug use (Figure TREATMENT1):

  • for episodes where the principal drug of concern was alcohol, referrals from self/family increased from 41% in 2010–11 to 47% in 2013–14 before falling to 42% in 2019–20
  • where cannabis was reported as the principal drug of concern, the proportion of diversion (police or court diversion program) referrals decreased from 2010–11 (28%) to 2019–20 (21%)
  • diversion as a referral source was less common among clients receiving treatment for alcohol (2% of episodes), heroin (1%) and most common for ecstasy (49%) and cannabis (21%).

Figure TREATMENT1: Closed treatment episodes for own drug use, by principal drug of concern and grouped referral source 2010–11 to 2019–20 (%)

The line graph shows grouped referral source for alcohol as the principal drug of concern from 2010–11 to 2019–20. Over this time period, self/family remained the most common grouped referral source, fluctuating from 47% in 2013–14 to 43% in 2017–18 and 42% in 2019–20. The second most common grouped referral source was health service, gradually increasing from 32% in 2014–15 to 41% in 2019–20.