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 include:

  • Development of the ACT version of eASSIST (in partnership with Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia).
  • Development and delivery of tailored ATOD information, screening and brief intervention training, including the ACT eASSIST.
  • ACT eASSIST Implementation Pilot.
  • ACT eASSIST Implementation Pilot Evaluation.
  • Screening for substance use and related issues by specialist alcohol, tobacco and other drug treatment and support services in the ACT: Discussion paper.
  • Development and launch of the online version of the ACT Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Services Directory (Version 10).

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

The ACT e-ASSIST was developed through a partnership between Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia (DASSA) and the Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT (ATODA), and is an electronic version of the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST), designed by the World Health Organization.

The ASSIST is designed for primary health care providers to screen for the use of tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, amphetamine type stimulants, sedatives, hallucinogens, inhalants, opioids and ‘other’ drugs. Upon completion, the screen is scored and feedback on each drug is given to the consumer based on his or her individual scores. The ASSIST was favourably evaluated in several large scale, international studies. DASSA adapted the ASSIST for an online environment and created the ‘e-ASSIST’. Both the ASSIST and e-ASSIST are in the public domain and easily completed. However, the ACT version of the e-ASSIST is currently only accessible through ATODA, who can provide associated training and establish a Memorandum of Understanding for its use with any interested stakeholders.

+Screening and brief intervention training

ATODA & Annie Bleeker Consulting

Screening and brief intervention provide a structured approach to undertake early intervention and provide brief support to people who are experiencing, or are at risk of developing, ATOD issues. This intervention can be useful across a range of health and community settings, and provides and evidence based and practical approach for workers within these services. There is strong evidence for the delivery of screening and brief intervention in the ATOD field.

This training module can be developed to the specific contexts of services and provides:

  • Training in the ACT eASSIST (an ACT specific, cross culturally validated screening tool that covers alcohol, tobacco and a range of other drugs).
  • Basic information on how to conduct a brief intervention.
  • Information on ACT ATOD sector referral options.

Services who participate in this training can contact ATODA to gain access to the ACT eASSIST for use within their programs.

Over 15 services have participated in this training over the previous 18 months.

+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 e-ASSIST 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 e-ASSIST 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 e-ASSIST 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 e-ASSIST 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 10)

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 e-ASSIST 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 Implementation Pilot Evaluation Poster Presentation

Social Research and Evaluation & ATODA

An abstract has been accepted for a poster presentation at the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs Conference in November 2013.

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

Last updated 13 September 2013