ALCOHOL-DEPENDENT YOUNG PEOPLE
The Hon. Dr P. WONG:
I ask the Minister for Juvenile Justice, Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth, and Minister Assisting the Minister for the Environment the following question without notice. In the light of a recent analysis prepared by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University Of New South Wales, which revealed that one-third of alcohol-dependent people have a mental disorder and that alcohol abuse is particularly prevalent among young people with up to 15 per cent of 18-year-olds to 24-year-olds classified as alcoholic, what strategies are currently in place that aim to address alcohol dependency among young people?
Are there any cross-government initiatives that link youth affairs and mental health? If so, what are they and what are their strategies? Lastly, how successful are these partnerships in dealing with prevention and treatment of alcohol dependency in young people?
The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT:
I thank the Hon. Dr P. Wong for what I believe is an important question relating to issues that have emerged from research undertaken by the National Drug and Alcohol Council. Some of the matters raised by the honourable member fall outside my portfolio responsibilities and would clearly fall within the responsibilities of the Minister for Health. However, I shall respond to some of the issues he has raised. Although the Drug Summit was particularly aimed at addressing the problem of illicit drugs, alcohol abuse was raised on a number of occasions by participants in the working group I chaired, which related to young people and drugs. Clearly, for some young people alcohol abuse, in addition to the use of illicit drugs, is a significant problem.
The most important matter about which I should like to inform the honourable member is that in response to the Drug Summit recommendations the Government has committed itself to a cross-government strategic approach to meet the needs of vulnerable young people. That approach will include assistance to young people at high risk from drugs and alcohol who are not likely to access more conventional support services. Youth-specific prevention, treatment and other services for illicit drug use will be provided. This cross-government strategic approach is about bringing the human services Ministers together to address some of the issues that clearly relate to vulnerable young people and their need for government services.
Co-ordination is an issue that comes to mind. One matter that is raised by young people time and again is that they go to one government service for assistance, but often that service cannot meet all of their needs. It is difficult for any user of government services to be transferred from one service to another. That is particularly so for young people. Achieving co-ordination is particularly important, and that is what the cross-government strategic approach is all about. All human services Ministers will be involved in developing this approach, which will address some of the issues raised by the honourable member in his question.
Other responses to the recommendations from the Drug Summit include the development of a database of all services used by young people with drug addiction or other related problems, such as homelessness and mental illness. The aim is to initially test the database in two geographic areas. That test will be followed by an evaluation with a view to wider implementation. The idea is to have all services linked to one place so that young people, their parents and carers can find out about them.
A telephone information service run by the Alcohol and Drug Information Service specifically for adolescents will be offered. The Y-Care youth health partnership will be piloted in northern and south-eastern Sydney to provide networks of user friendly health services. I have dealt with some of the matters raised by the honourable member in his question. If he has further matters he wishes to follow up about mental health, it would be useful to direct a question to the Minister for Health.