Screening Project

In recent years, the ACT’s specialist alcohol, tobacco and other drug treatment (ATOD) and support services have sought to strengthen their capacity to screen for ATOD and associated issues (including mental and physical health), implement brief interventions, match treatment and support needs, communicate services and referral pathways, and provide ATOD information, including that with a harm reduction focus.

Building on this work, ATODA and its key partners (including specialist ATOD treatment and support services) are seeking to identify the range of opportunities to strengthen evidence-based and consistent screening across health and community services in the ACT through developing and implementing an ongoing Screening Project. Some Project activities are highlighted below.


ATODA in partnership with Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia (DASSA)

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) eASSIST provides a questionnaire which screens for all levels of problem or risky substance use. The ACT eASSIST provides an evidence-based structured and consistent way for health, community and other workers to:

  • Identify if a client / consumer is experiencing alcohol, tobacco or other drug problems
  • Determine the level of risk of this use to help decide the next steps to take
  • Provide a structured 10-step brief intervention and accurate alcohol, tobacco and other drug information (including through prompts)
  • Produce a feedback report card for clients / consumers regarding the risks associated with their alcohol, tobacco or other drug use
  • Identify an appropriate ACT referral point for specialist alcohol, tobacco or other drug treatment and support.

The ACT eASSIST is based on an electronic version of the World Health Organization ASSIST developed by Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia (DASSA). ATODA acknowledges and would like to thank DASSA for their partnership. ATODA greatly values our partnership to incorporate ACT specific referral pathways and information into the tool and support implementation in the ACT.

Visit to download the ACT eASSIST

For a promotional flyer click here.

+ATOD Information, Harm Minimisation and Screening and Brief Intervention Training

ATODA & Annie Bleeker Consulting & Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia

ATODA recently hosted workshops and training opportunities to support health and community services and workers to build their capacity to better identify and respond to ATOD issues. By contacting ATODA, this training can be adapted to the needs of specific services, sectors or populations. Over 70 workers have already been trained in 2014 in the following:

Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Information and Harm Reduction Training, Facilitated by Annie Bleeker

Click here to download the training slides.

This training covered:

  • Introduction to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in Australia
  • Policies in the ACT and Australia
  • How drugs are used and their effects
  • Statistics and data
  • Introduction to harm minimisation
  • Harm reduction and safety information and strategies
  • ACT alcohol, tobacco and other drug sector orientation and referrals

ATOD Screening and Brief Intervention (Implementing the ACT eASSIST), Facilitated by Jennifer Harland, DASSA World Health Organization Collaborating Centre

Click here to download the training slides.

This training covered:

  • Overview of screening and brief intervention
  • The ACT electronic Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ACT eASSIST)
  • How to conduct an effective brief intervention using the principles of Motivational Interviewing
  • Adapting the ACT eASSIST and brief intervention to specific populations (e.g. young people, people with co-morbidities, older people)
  • ACT referral options and pathways

+Support to Implement the ACT eASSIST Including Managers Workshop

ATODA & Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia (DASSA)

ATODA can engage with services managers to introduce the ACT eASSIST and its potential value to their services; discuss how the tool could be used as an outcome measure; and provide information on the support available to embed the tool in services.Ongoing support can be provided to services by contacting ATODA.

To support this goal, a workshop was hosted by ATODA with mental health, ATOD and homelessness service managers in April 2014 with a presentation from Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia. Similar workshops may be coordinated in future. To express interest please contact ATODA.

+ACT eASSIST Implementation Pilot

ATODA, CatholicCare Canberra & Goulburn, Karralika Programs Inc., Directions, Ted Noffs Foundation ACT, Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation and Advocacy, Toora Women Inc. and Social Research and Evaluation

ACT specialist ATOD services recently conducted an implementation pilot of the ACT eASSIST in six agencies, which was completed in February 2013. Part of the background of the decision to conduct the pilot was the fact that the ACT has a relatively high level of interventions provided to service consumers that are classified as ‘assessment only’. There was an increase in the proportion of assessment only episodes from 13% in 2009–10 to 20% in 2010–11. Some service consumers failed to attend treatment or were assessed as unsuitable, increasing the apparent assessment only episode rate. It was hypothesised that more extensive use of screening and brief intervention instruments would reduce the number and proportion of assessment only with consequent benefits to both the agencies and service users.
The objectives of the eASSIST Implementation Pilot included:

  • A higher proportion of people in contact with ACT ATOD agencies (in the first instance) will be screened and given a targeted brief intervention, including harm reduction information, if warranted.
  • People will be better matched and referred to ACT ATOD services based on identified risk and the severity of the problems they are experiencing (in line with the continuum of care approach identified in the ACT Comorbidity Strategy).
  • Efficiencies will be found, as screening will reduce the number of unnecessary assessment-only interventions.
  • Higher satisfaction of staff and agencies will be attained regarding efficient and effective use of resources (in line with previously identified efficiencies).
  • Service consumers will receive regular feedback related to harm attributable to different risk categories.
  • Services will be better placed to implement outcome measurement, related to screening, in line with Commonwealth Government funding requirements.
  • As a mechanism for facilitating referrals, participating agencies will use more consistent language describing the results of screening.

+ACT eASSIST Implementation Pilot Evaluation

Social Research and Evaluation

Findings of the ACT eASSIST evaluation and discussions include:

  • The instrument is valuable when used in the settings, and with the target groups, with which it is designed to be used (e.g. Sobering Up Shelter, drop-in settings and during outreach). It is not intended for use after service consumers have already received comprehensive assessments as the basis for their admission.
  • The instrument has particular promise for the use in telephone contacts.
  • Screening should be tailored and flexibly applied to ensure it meets the needs of service consumers.
  • All participating services have expressed keenness to have the instrument embedded into operating procedures in some way (which could include familiarity with the tool to accept referrals from outside agencies, and providing leadership in this area).

+Screening for substance use and related issues by specialist alcohol, tobacco and other drug treatment and support services in the ACT: Discussion paper

LeeJenn Health Consultants & ATODA

The ACT ATOD Workers Group and ACT eASSIST Implementation Pilot services suggested that an initial scoping of opportunities related to screening, and some clarification regarding best practice processes would be useful, resulting in the development of this discussion paper. The paper examines the range and feasibility of using screening tools within specialist ATOD treatment and support services and the ATOD sector more broadly.

The discussion paper examines:

  • Purpose of screening in specialist ATOD treatment and support services.
  • The relationship between triage, screening and assessment.
  • Screening instruments available for common issues of concern for ATOD service consumers.
  • Follow-up after screening.
  • Suitable screening tools for specialist ATOD treatment and support services.
  • Suitable triage questions for specialist ATOD treatment and support services.

The paper, and the models contained within, were endorsed by the ACT ATOD Specialist Executive Group on 16 July 2013.

Click here to download the paper.

+Online ACT Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Services Directory (Version 11)

ATODA and the ACT ATOD Workers Group

To support workers to undertake referrals to ACT ATOD services ACT ATOD Directory has moved into a new online format. This is particularly relevant following the utilisation of the eASSIST screening tool that links to ACT ATOD specific referral options for people identified as experiencing an ATOD issue.

Some additional features include:

  • Operates on multiple platforms.
  • All profiles can be exported in pdf, downloaded, printed or emailed.
  • A quick reference guide for all programs.
  • An electronic map to view services by location.
  • Information on how to make a referral.
  • Information about ATOD and crisis services.
  • Information about service types.
  • Additional information on programs that may be relevant (but are outside the scope of the Directory).

To visit the Directory website, click here.

+ACT eASSIST Poster and Conference Presentations

ACT eASSIST pilot evaluation: An abstract was accepted for a poster presentation at the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs Conference in November 2013. To download the poster click here.

ACT eASSIST and the Mental Health, Justice Health and Alcohol and Drug Services Division, ACT Health: A presentation that incorporated information on the usefulness of the ACT eASSIST was provided to the Divisional Comorbidity Forum in March 2014.

ACT eASSIST in mental health services: An abstract has also been accepted for the Mental Health Community Coalition conference in June 2014. More information available soon.

For more information contact:
Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT
(02) 6255 4070

Last updated 26 May 2014