26 September 2023

Drug checking service to be extended

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The ACT’s drug checking pilot service has proved successful, with The Australian National University (ANU) finding strong community support and engagement with health interventions.

Responding to ANU’s interim independent evaluation report, Minister for Health, Rachel Stephen-Smith announced an extension of the Australian-first service to August 2023.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service was initially launched as a six-month pilot in July last year.

She said CanTEST provided chemical analysis of drugs and drop-in nurse consultations for general health, sexual health and mental health advice.

“We have seen a great community response to this service,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“Those using CanTEST have reported positive experiences of having their drugs tested without fear of judgement,” she said.

“The service has also contributed to information about the drugs circulating in the Canberra community, which allows health services and the wider community to learn about and respond to dangerous substances earlier.”

Ms Stephen-Smith said ANU’s interim report recommended the pilot be completed and the service continue pending the full evaluation.

“The report details the impact the service has had over the first three months of operation, indicating strong user support and engagement with the alcohol and other drugs (AOD) and health interventions,” the Minister said.

“The interim independent report found that 80 per cent of clients accepted an AOD or healthcare intervention and 62 per cent reported never previously accessing a healthcare worker for information or advice about drug use,” she said.

“In its first four months of operation, CanTEST tested 371 samples, with around 15 per cent of samples being voluntarily discarded by clients following testing.”

Ms Stephen-Smith said ANU, in partnership with researchers from other universities, was expected to deliver its final evaluation report in the first half of this year.

ANU’s 131-page CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service Program Evaluation: Interim Report can be accessed at this PS News link and further information on CanTEST can be accessed at this link.

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