- It is important that a person being detained, and their family or carer, fully understand the requirements and processes to access treatment under the Severe Substance Dependence Treatment Act 2010 (the Act). If the person or anyone else is incapable of understanding this Act and the process, assistance is available (see Further information and useful contacts below).
- Treatment under the Act is reserved for those who might be in danger of losing their lives or risking serious damage to their health due to alcohol or other drug use.
- There are strict criteria for access to treatment under the Act.
- Only a very small number of Victorians are currently detained under the Act each year.
- The person being detained and their carers and family have rights under the Act.
The process for compulsory treatment
The criteria for detention states that the person has 'severe substance dependence'. This means:
- the person has a tolerance to a substance
- the person shows withdrawal symptoms when they stop using, or reduce the level of use of, the substance
- the person is incapable of making decisions about their substance use and personal health, welfare and safety due primarily to dependence on the substance
- the person is unwilling to undergo voluntary treatment for dependence on the substance.
A prescribed registered medical practitioner must examine the person for whom the application has been made, to assess if they qualify to be detained and treated. A prescribed registered medical practitioner must be a fellow or affiliate of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, an Addiction Medicine Specialist or a custodial medical officer (see for full definition).
If a person refuses to be examined by this medical practitioner or cannot be examined, the person making the application can apply to the Magistrates' Court for a special warrant to cause the person to be subject to an involuntary examination.
There are multiple . The application should be submitted to the Court closest to the person's residence and the application must be heard within 72 hours of the application being submitted. The person has the right to attend the hearing, and can have legal representation if they wish.
Upon arrival at the treatment centre, the person will be admitted and treated by an Addiction Medicine Team, including an Addiction Medicine Specialist. The order authorises detention and treatment for up to 14 days. When the person completes their treatment, they will be provided with a discharge plan and will be linked with support services that can help them on their journey of rehabilitation.
There are prescribed forms that need to be used:
- for a prescribed registered medical practitioner to make a
- for the Magistrates' Court to issue a
- for the Magistrates' Court to make the order
- to apply for an
Information for carers, guardians and family
A guardian, over the age of 18, of a person with severe substance dependence may apply for a person to be placed under a detention and treatment order under the Act.
A person subject to a detention and treatment order can choose someone to protect their interests while they are detained in a treatment centre. This person is known as a 'Nominated Person' and is usually a carer, guardian, friend, case worker or family member (see ).
The Nominated Person can refuse the nomination by informing treatment centre staff that they refuse. The treatment centre staff must inform the person if the Nominated Person does not wish to be nominated.
- apply to have the order revoked (stopped)
- be involved in decisions about the person's treatment and discharge
- be given a written copy of the person's rights
- be told when the person is admitted to the treatment centre, transferred to another treatment centre or discharged from the treatment centre
- be told when the person leaves the treatment centre, with or without permission
- be told if the order is revoked
- be given a copy of the person's discharge plan.
Carers, guardians and family members should be aware that support to guide them through this process is available from DirectLine, Victoria Legal Aid and the Office of the Public Advocate.
Further information and useful contacts
- Victoria Legal Aid (phone 1300 792 387) if they require free legal advice
- The Office of the Public Advocate (phone 1300 309 337) if they need further advice.
Reviewed 09 September 2015