The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the most significant social and economic disruption this country has seen in generations. Members will be aware of the efforts that the NSW Ministry of Health and NADA have undertaken to address not only the pandemic, but its effects on member service delivery from our partnership webinars. There has been great co-operation, communication and collaborative action between the Ministry and the non government sector as a result of COVID-19.
One of the most significant changes has been the emphasis on the interconnectedness of the health services system, and on the need for that connectedness to enable us to co-operate to achieve firstly, safety and security, and then, accessible quality client treatment and support services. Pre-COVID, AOD services were quite separate between Local Health Districts and the non government sector, and competition for resources and access to vital ancillary services for our respective client groups was the dominant mode of operation.
But where are we heading to now? As has been said in relation to the national economy, there most likely won’t be a ‘snapback’ to business as usual after COVID-19 has been overcome. Instead there will be a significant reshaping of business; I think the same will be true for the non government AOD sector.
The increased use of telecommunications—video calls and conferencing, online collaboration apps, social media chats, and the good old teleconference—has enabled our members to keep in contact with clients who were being treated on an out-client basis. It has enabled staff to work from home and stay actively engaged with their teammates and stakeholders. It has also enabled services to manage their assessment and pre-admission/engagement of new clients and those clients on wait lists. Also, it has enabled services to provide ongoing and aftercare to clients who have transitioned to their post intensive phase of the treatment process. This is true of both residential and community based services. These new initiatives, adaptations and modification of all stages of the treatment system, both residential and community based service models, have given our service sector insights into how things may be done differently into the future. The lessons learned in the service system and the experiences of the clients will be incredibly useful for us to reflect upon in terms of future service planning and implementation.
NADA is working on a research project to gather information from our members about the impact of COVID-19 on service delivery and the quality and level of care they have been able to provide to their clients. We are also working with the Ministry on a large, non government AOD sectorwide cost of service and future business models research project funded by the Ministry and to be conducted by a reputable external research consultancy. This study will identify the true costs of service delivery and also look at the business models needed for an effective and sustainable non government AOD sector in NSW. I believe that the information that NADA has gathered from our work with members during this time of crisis, along with the independent study on the impacts of COVID-19 on treatment service delivery and the new service costing and business models study will enable us to put together planning, funding and non government service sector implementation strategies. In line with the primary advocacy priorities of our membership and that have been at the core of all of NADA’s advocacy work over the past decade or more.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our membership for their willingness to work with us, and to bring together their collective wisdom and their insights into the issue of coping with COVID-19—and for not letting it overwhelm us and stop us from doing what we are here for; to provide the best possible AOD treatment and support system we can for our clients.