In 2005 AIVL commenced a peer-driven research study in collaboration with NCHSR to gain a better understanding of consumer participation in drug treatment services in Australia. This study resulted in the publication of the TSU Project: Phase One Final Report in April 2008. The project recommended a series of priority actions to support education and training, policy development, funding and leadership in relation to consumer participation in drug treatment services (AIVL, 2008 and Byrant et al, 2008).
The TSU Project: Phase One was a ground-breaking project within the Australian AOD treatment sector (Patterson et al., 2009 and Ottman et al., 2009). As the first national research study into consumer participation in drug treatment settings in Australia, the project identified a number of key findings. These findings included a very high level of support for consumer participation among both consumers and service providers; a lack of resources, skills and capacity to implement consumer participation in practice; and a number of significant barriers to consumer participation caused primarily by the culture and power dynamics in drug treatment services.
Of particular note was the fact that although the vast majority of stakeholders indicated a strong level of support for consumer participation in the planning and delivery of drug treatment services, many stakeholders did not feel confident when it came to translating this 'theoretical' support into practice at the level of everyday service delivery. In this regard, the TSU Project: Phase One Report highlighted the need:
- to raise awareness of the benefits of consumer participation; and
- to provide advice to services on how to implement consumer participation in practice (AIVL, 2008, p.15)
- further refine and then apply the definition and model of consumer participation in drug treatment services developed in the TSU Project: Phase One; and
- conduct an independent evaluation of the suitability and impact of the expanded model within the five selected demonstration sites.
For consistency and to support comparisons across the two project phases, the five demonstration sites were selected from the same states as those who participated in the TSU Project: Phase One — New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. The demonstration projects included a range of metropolitan and regional, and government and non-government drug treatment services. The drug treatment approaches offered by the demonstration sites included:
- inpatient detoxification; and
- residential rehabilitation.