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Aust Fam Physician. 2013 May;42(5):339-42.

Obstacles to alcohol and drug care -- are medicare locals the answer?

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Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.



Harms related to alcohol and drug use have an enormous cost on the community, yet most patients with substance use disorders do not receive care from primary healthcare providers. The establishment of a system of large primary healthcare organisations (Medicare Locals) across Australia provides an opportunity to address this service gap.


This article considers barriers to delivering alcohol and drug interventions from primary healthcare settings, strategies for their resolution, and the ensuing benefits for patients.


Help seeking for alcohol and drug problems is low. Stigmatisation can be countered by policy development, training and support to increase staff awareness and skills, and building relationships with specialist services. Co-location, outreach clinics, and collaborative models simplify access, tailor intensity of interventions, and improve patient satisfaction and health outcomes. Screening and brief intervention at intake, with appropriate training and support for nursing staff, can advance the delivery of timely and effective care.

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