My question is for the minister representing the Minister for Health. This year’s budget results in an 11.2 per cent cut from the revised budget figures for alcohol and other drug treatment and prevention, equating to $39.8 million taken away from services which support people in need of treatment. This comes at a time when the government has made it even easier to access alcohol through the introduction of the liquor reform bill that allows alcohol to be ordered online and delivered within minutes by untrained delivery drivers. Prior to this reform being introduced the drug and alcohol treatment sector was already under immense pressure. Between September 2020 and July 2021 the daily waitlist for treatment increased by 50.9 per cent. So, Minister, why has the government chosen now to cut funding for alcohol and drug treatment by 11.2 per cent, the first cut to the sector in 17 years?
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:18): Mr Barton has raised a question for the Minister for Health, and I will pass that on and get him an answer.
Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (12:18): Thank you, Minister. The government has also discontinued the $25.62 million alcohol and other drugs COVID-19 workforce initiative. This initiative provided an additional 100 full-time alcohol and other drug treatment workers across Victoria as well as training and upskilling. Can the minister explain why the government felt it appropriate to discontinue a $25 million investment in the alcohol and other drugs workforce initiative when there is a massive shortfall in the alcohol and drug and harm reduction workforces?
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:18): I thank Mr Barton for his question, and I am sure that the minister will be able to provide you information and point to many programs that are addressing the concerns that you have raised, particularly in light of the overlap with mental health services as well. I am sure there will be some information that you will find useful.
Response received from Hon. Martin Foley
Substantive Question Response:
There is no cut to on going AOD budgets
The reduction in 2022-23 AOD Output Budget reflects the lapsing funding from the AOD COVID-19 workforce initiative in 2021-22 to support those disengaged from treatment and alleviate demand on the AOD system during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Funding for the Public Intoxication Reforms is also not listed in the 2022-23 State Budget due to the recent decision to defer the decriminalisation of public drunkenness from November 2022 to November 2023, which means the budget deliberations were not finalised in time to be included in the State Budget.
Supplementary Question Response:
The $1.3 billion investment in the Victorian mental health system includes better care for Victorians living with mental illness and co-occurring substance use or addiction via a more integrated and responsive mental health and wellbeing system. This will take considerable pressure off the specialist AOD system by providing better integrated supports to people with moderate to severe mental illness.