- Forensic clients are people who access alcohol and other drug treatment as a result of their contact with the criminal justice system.
- The majority of forensic clients are mandated to attend treatment as a condition of their order or diversion.
- The Department of Health funds the assessment and treatment for all community-based forensic clients across the state.
- Alcohol and other drug treatment for forensic clients is aimed at reducing the harms associated with alcohol and other drug misuse, including the related offending behaviour.
- Forensic alcohol and other drug treatment is part of the broader alcohol and other drug treatment system and clients. It includes specific targeted programs as well as prioritised access to general community, withdrawal and rehabilitation programs.
Release of Forensic Client Definition Policy 2022-23
This policy clarifies which clients are eligible for forensic services and will count towards forensic performance targets in 2022-23. It also explains how to correctly report forensic activity to the Victorian Alcohol Drug Collection (VADC).
Forensic Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Service Delivery Model
The Forensic AOD Service Delivery Model (the Model) is a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and Community Safety and the Department of Health. It commenced on 20 July 2018.
The primary aim of the Model is to enhance the delivery AOD treatment for community based clients under the supervision of Community Correctional Services (CCS).
The Model was founded on a set of agreed core principles that bridge AOD treatment and offender case management.
The following objectives have been set to achieve the primary aim of the model:
- improve referral pathways to AOD services
- improve the delivery of specialist forensic AOD treatment to offenders
- strengthen collaboration, co-ordination and accountability between AOD and CCS sectors (for information visit )
- enhance the capability of the AOD and CCS workforces to implement service enhancements
- develop enhanced and flexible treatment models for forensic clients
- embed governance over the delivery of services between CCS and AOD (centrally and locally)
- develop effective reporting and monitoring tools and data systems
A copy of the Forensic AOD Service Delivery Model has been provided below.
For further information on the joint project, please contact the AOD team via the contact details on this page.
Intake and assessment for forensic clients
Australian Community Support Organisation’s (ACSO) Community Offenders Advice and Treatment Services (COATS) program is a state-wide government funded service.
It undertakes the majority of forensic intake and assessment services for forensic clients, including those referred through Community corrections and the Adult Parole Board.
Assessments are undertaken within 2 to 5 days of referral according to identified levels of risk, using a forensic version of the standardised tools, and include treatment planning and brokerage of AOD treatment.
Referrals to COATS come from Community corrections, the courts, police or the Parole board.
Catchment-based intake services provide intake, assessment and brief intervention services for diversion clients.
These include people referred by the:
- Drug Diversion Appointment Line
- Court Referral and Evaluation for Drug Intervention and Treatment program (CREDIT)
- Court Integrated Services Program (CISP).
It also includes other clients seeking treatment to address the alcohol and other drug-related offending behaviour.
Forensic-specific programs for alcohol and other drug treatment
Forensic clients are referred to the full range of treatment services including:
- care and recovery coordination
- youth and Aboriginal specific services.
In addition there are a range of forensic-specific programs and initiatives that are particularly targeted at addressing alcohol and other drug use in relation to offending behaviour.
The Responsive, Assessment, Planning, Intervention and Diversion Service (RAPIDS) is operated by ACSO's COATS program.
It provides a same-day assessment service for clients presenting to court at high risk to themselves or others.
The service provides bridging support to these clients while awaiting access to treatment services.
Torque is a 6-week non-residential rehabilitation program located in Coburg for people currently engaged in the justice system.
It offers treatment and support for problematic alcohol and other drug use. The aim of the program is to help people develop coping skills and maintain motivation to cease or reduce their substance use.
Most activities are scheduled between 9.30 am and 3.30 pm, and include some evening activities. Up to 12 people participate in the program at any one time.
The High Risk Offenders Alcohol and Drug Service (HiROADS) specifically address the treatment needs of clients with serious violent and sexual offending who also have:
- a high risk of recidivism and relapse
- a history of non-compliance or difficulties engaging in treatment.
Drink and drug driver program
The Victorian Accredited Driver Education Program (Drink Driver and Drug Driver Services) involves a range of measures including:
- attending an education program
- provision of comprehensive assessments
- preparation of licence eligibility reports
- alcohol interlock condition removal order reports for the Court.
Clients are required to attend some or all components of the program depending on the nature of the offences committed.
Those convicted of a specific drink-drive, drug-drive or combined drink and drug-drive offence should note that licence restoration is not automatic.
StepOut is a free voluntary program for people on straight release (not on parole or remand) in Victoria and who choose to have drug and alcohol treatment on release from custody.
The program is provided by COATS and supports the transition from prison into the community.
The service provides in-prison assessment and, where appropriate, links clients to intensive counselling and case management services under a treatment plan developed with each client.
Cannabis cautioning program
The cannabis cautioning program is a police diversion program. Police provide a cautioning notice for simple use/possess cannabis offences to clients aged 17 years and over.
The client must only be in possession of a small (non-trafficable) amount of cannabis, admit to the offence and consent to being cautioned.
A person can accumulate only 2 cautions. A voluntary cannabis education program is available to accompany the caution. This program is currently available in 15 locations across Victoria, in both metropolitan and rural areas, and is also open to friends and family members.
Drug Diversion Program
People apprehended by the police for use or possession of an illicit drug other than cannabis may be offered a caution on the condition that they undertake a clinical drug assessment and attend at least one session of any prescribed drug treatment.
To be eligible for a caution under the Drug Diversion Program, the person must:
- be over 10 years of age
- be arrested for the use and/or possession of a small (non-trafficable) amount of illicit drugs other than cannabis
- admit to the offence
- not have received any more than one previous cautioning notice (including a cannabis caution).
The drug diversion caution no longer applies when the person has attended both the clinical-drug assessment and one treatment session.
First Offender’s Court Intervention Service
The First Offender’s Court Intervention Service, known as FOCiS, is a drug-education program for first-time offenders sentenced to the program by the Victorian Magistrates’ Court.
Attendance is compulsory for people placed on an undertaking with conditions or on a diversion plan with attendance as a condition. Non-attendance is likely to result in a return to the Magistrates' Court.
The program is delivered at several metropolitan and country centres across Victoria.
Children's Court Clinic Drug Program
The Children’s Court Clinic Drug Program provides early intervention drug treatment for young people appearing in the criminal division of the court who have demonstrated substance misuse.
The program aims to:
- divert young people who have a drug problem from further involvement in the criminal justice process, through participation in drug-treatment programs
- develop a commitment on the part of young person to harm minimisation practices and drug treatment
- reduce the risk of further criminal activity to support drug use.
The Children’s Court Clinic Drug Program is a statewide service and is brokered by COATS or a local community drug-service provider.
Family Drug Treatment Court
The Family Drug Treatment Court is a program in the Children's Court that aims to help parents who have had their children removed under a Child Protection Order to stop using drugs/alcohol and promote family reunification.
The multidisciplinary team comprises drug and alcohol clinicians and a dedicated social worker for up to 12 months.
The Court Referral and Evaluation for Drug Intervention and Treatment and Bail Support Program (CREDIT / Bail Support Program), provides clients with access to:
- case management
- drug treatment
- transitional accommodation
- material aid
- other health, welfare, legal and community supports.
It aims to increase the likelihood of a person being granted bail and successfully completing their bail period.
The program currently operates at 8 court locations across Victoria including:
The Court Integrated Services Program (CISP) provides accused people with access to services and support to reduce rates of re-offending and promote safer communities.
Over a 4-month period, it aims to:
- provide short-term assistance before sentencing for accused with health and social needs
- work on the causes of offending through individualised case management
- provide priority access to treatment and community support services
- reduce the likelihood of re-offending.
The Assessment and Referral Court List (the List) is a specialist court list developed by the Department of Justice and Community Safety and the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.
It aims to meet the needs of accused people who have a mental illness and/or a cognitive impairment.
The List is located at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court and is used collaboratively with the CISP, which provides case management to participants.
Case management may include:
- psychological assessment
- referral to welfare
- mental health
- housing services drug and alcohol treatment.
Client information sharing - guidance for alcohol and other drug (AOD) workers
All clinicians should follow a best practice approach to client information sharing based on recommendations from the Victorian Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection.
The Department of Health has prepared a document to provide guidance to alcohol and other drug (AOD) workers on information sharing processes for voluntary and forensic clients.
Reviewed 26 July 2023