An evaluation of the Northern Territory’s contentious program of forcing alcoholics into treatment has found that for a program with no apparent long-term health impacts, the $18 million spent running it every year “seems high”.
Key points:Report finds program has no apparent long-term health impactsNo significant difference in number of hospital presentations between AMT patients and non-patientsIn 2015-16, 339 people were treated at a cost of $53,915 each
The review, due to be released today, also found that blockages in the system, including a lack of beds and staff at assessment centres, meant that up to half the people who could potentially benefit from the treatment were excluded from the process.
Under the mandatory treatment program, anyone picked up by police for being drunk in public three times in two months can be forced into rehabilitation in Alice Springs or Darwin for up to 12 weeks.
The controversial scheme was introduced by the former NT Country Liberals government in July 2013, in spite of fierce opposition from health, legal, and Indigenous groups, who argued that the program targeted homeless Indigenous people and criminalised a health issue.
“[AMT] was a costly program that delivered minimal long term gains for the relatively few people who participated,” Health Minister Natasha Fyles said.
The evaluation of the program, by PwC’s Indigenous Consulting and the Menzies School of Health Research, was commissioned by the former CLP government and was handed to the NT Health Department in January.
But the reviewers found there were limitations to what they could say about the effectiveness of the scheme that costs at least $18 million a year to run.
The report said the evaluation was difficult because of a lack of a “sound program logic” that clearly stated what the government was trying to