Toolkit aims to reduce domestic violence among drug and alcohol users
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Toolkit aims to reduce domestic violence among drug and alcohol users

An Australian-first toolkit for workers in the drug and alcohol sector is being launched on Monday in Canberra to address the high rates of domestic violence among those abusing substances.

The ACT's Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association (ATODA) is leading the way in the research, development and implementation of resources to assist front-line drug and alcohol workers to respond to domestic and family violence.

ATODA chief executive Carrie Fowlie.

ATODA chief executive Carrie Fowlie.

Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Drug and alcohol expert Nicole Lee supported the development of the tools and said they give workers the opportunity to improve responses to domestic violence within the community.

Ms Lee, professor at the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin Univeristy and director of 360edge, said harmful drug and alcohol use was a major factor for domestic and family violence.

"This makes the drug and alcohol sector really a crucial place to provide effective responses to people who both use and experience violence," Professor Lee said.

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"Until now, there hasn't been any resources to support that work."

Professor Lee said alcohol and drug workers are experts in behavioural change.

"It's an ideal setting to reduce the prevalence of violence among the client group," she said.

The three tools being launched are a capacity assessment tool, to help services benchmark how they're doing in the response to domestic violence so improvements can be made, a scope of practice to assist practitioners to work within the bounds of what they can provide and what referrals are necessary, and a practice guide to implement the same approaches across the board.

"Until now, practitioners have been doing the best they can, but this will give them an opportunity to improve those responses and be able to take on more of the responsibility for responding to domestic and family violence in the community," Professor Lee said.

ATODA ACT chief executive Carrie Fowlie said ACT alcohol and drug sector staff work with more than 5000 at-risk people every year.

"Specialist alcohol and drug services are unique settings to concurrently prevent, intervene early and respond to people already experiencing domestic and family violence," Ms Fowlie said.

She said the more than $2 million in funding for the project from the ACT government's Safer Families initiative presented an "unprecedented opportunity to improve health and safety".

The funding, Ms Fowlie said, enabled the territory to lead the nation in developing evidence-based, fit-for-purpose and feasible responses to domestic and family violence in alcohol and other drug settings.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Meegan Fitzharris said the practice tools were an important first-step in increasing the capacity of specialist drug and alcohol services to deliver programs to address family violence.

Ms Fitzharris said the funding would increase the capacity of specialist drug and alcohol services to deliver best-practice programs for families experiencing domestic violence.

Kimberley Le Lievre is the Editor of The Sunday Canberra Times

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