This edition of the Advocate [PDF] focuses on the issue of trauma, and there are some very insightful articles contained within, but I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the systemic trauma the AOD sector is experiencing, plus the drivers of this phenomena.
But what do I mean by this? I am referring to the long-term effects of the rising burden of responsibility for providing high quality treatment and client care in an environment where the funding levels from all sources of government funding programs are going backwards in real terms. Feedback from service managers and CEOs is consistent here—how can we be expected to provide x number of beds and x number of counselling and support interventions when the real value of our funding income keeps slipping behind the real costs of providing these services?
Apart from the declining dollars, non government AOD services do not have the benefit of large administrative and human resources bureaucratic support that hospital based, or Local Health District (LHD) based specialist drug services may have. We don’t have the economies of scale for information technology and communications support or goods and services purchasing support that LHDs can bring to bear for government drug health services. Most non government service providers have very limited ability to fundraise to meet the funding shortfall. The net effect of poor funding of non government AOD services is stress on managers and workers who are consistently being asked to deliver more on a declining funding base. This demand is coming from the complexities of our clients, prospective clients and from government contract managers—and it is also coming from the community more broadly—when they can’t get their loved ones into treatment.
And what is the effect on staff and managers? We believe it is adding to the overall burden of stress in terms of dealing with ever increasing levels of complexity the clients present to services with, and trying to do so in services that are increasingly finding it difficult to provide internal support to staff. With totally inadequate resources or no budgets for staff development and the purchasing of brokerage service supports and in the worst cases, no surety of ongoing funding for many elements of their service budgets.
NADA has been advocating for real cost of service budgets for all non government AOD contracts for the past two decades and we have most recently addressed this issue squarely in our submission to and appearances before the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug ‘Ice’. We know that the Commission’s report specifically addresses this issue in its final report to the government.
The take home message is that we can’t keep doing more with less, if fact, we can’t keep doing what we are currently doing on the money we are getting in current service contracts. We can’t continue to tolerate the stress and service level trauma that this situation is putting on our workforce and on the clients of our services! Together we must demand the government step up and provide the level of resourcing we need to serve our clients and look after our staff.