The Horizons Project: An empirical analysis of alcohol and drug treatment funding, purchasing and workforce mechanisms

Alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment is key for improving health and reducing the social impact of AOD use. However, the treatment itself is not the only variable that impacts on whether health outcomes are improved. The way in which treatment is funded, purchased, and staffed is likewise important. While these variables are important determinants of treatment outcomes, no Australian research to date has examined how the funding, purchasing, and staffing of treatment impacts on client treatment outcomes. The key structural features associated with treatment outcomes are:

  1. Funding arrangements
  2. Purchasing mechanisms
  3. Provider type
  4. Workforce characteristics

This is the first Australian research to focus on these structural features and examine how the funding, purchasing, and staffing of treatment impacts on client treatment outcomes. This project, named Horizons, has been funded by the NHMRC (2017 to 2020).

The project will provide an empirical foundation to guide decisions about how to fund and purchase AOD treatment services. It has the potential to directly benefit AOD treatment providers, AOD treatment clients and policymakers in a number of ways. Having accurate information and empirical analyses on the funding arrangements, purchasing mechanisms and workforce characteristics of AOD agencies will help, amongst other things, to:

  • Better plan the ways in which treatment services are funded
  • Understand the implications of different types of purchasing models
  • Assist with the allocation of resources to maximise health and wellbeing outcomes, and
  • Gain insight into funding and workforce characteristics in relation to treatment outcomes to enhance the capacity of the AOD sector.         

The project outcomes will enhance the effectiveness and quality of AOD treatment services and help build the capacity of the AOD workforce. Importantly, the project will ultimately improve the treatment outcomes of people with alcohol and other drug problems, through knowledge of the kinds of funding and purchasing arrangements which lead to better treatment outcomes. More efficient health resource utilisation, resulting in more treatment places and/or higher quality care will help those seeking treatment for alcohol or other drug problems. 

Alcohol and other drug (AOD) staffing and their workplace: examining the relationship between clinician and organisational workforce characteristics and treatment outcomes in the AOD field

Perceptions of funding and commissioning models for alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment services in Australia: a qualitative study of service providers and policymakers (in press)


Timothy Dobbins (NDARC)

Jennifer Chalmers (NDARC)

Michael Livingston (La Trobe University)

Lynda Berends (Trace Research)

Harvey Whiteford (The University of Queensland)


The project is supported by an Advisory Group, which includes the following members:

Sam Biondo - CEO, Victorian Alcohol And other Drug Association (VAADA)

Helene Delany - Manager, Alcohol and other Drug Policy, ACT Health

Adrian Dunlop - Addiction Medicine Specialist, NSW Ministry of Health

Moira Hewitt - Head, Tobacco Alcohol and Other Drugs Unit. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Rebecca Lang - CEO, Queensland Network of Alcohol and Drug Agencies (QNADA)

Ann Roche - Director, National Centre Education and Training on Addictions (NCETA)

Ross Broad, A/Director, Drug Policy and Reform, Community Based Health Policy & Programs Branch, Department of Health and Human Services

Helen Taylor, A/Director, Alcohol and Other Drugs Strategy, Planning & Partnerships Unit, Mental Health Alcohol & Other Drugs Branch, Department of Health

Chris Killick-Moran, Director, Research and International Policy, Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Branch, Population Health and Sport Division, Department of Health

Organisational units