There’s no doubt that the year 2020 is going to be remembered as the year COVID-19 turned our lives into a rollercoaster ride.
Not the fun rollercoaster ride you find in the children’s section of the amusement park but the daunting grown-up one that makes you hold on tight as you’re flipped and spun around so much that you’re not quite sure if you’re going to make it off in one piece.
As we nudge closer to what may be the final stages of the COVID-19 rollercoaster ride, it will still be some time before we get a good understanding of what the long-term impacts are for those who drink, smoke or take other drugs (we anticipate there will be a spike in demand for treatment).
What is apparent right now is that there are some silver linings to the COVID-19 response, which has triggered a number of positive changes to how we deliver alcohol, tobacco and other drug treatment and support services in Tasmania.
This includes three long-awaited, and much needed improvements in treatment and support services for Tasmanians with an opioid drug dependence.
In fact, I have witnessed more progressive change in this space in the past eight weeks than I have seen in the nearly two years that I’ve been working in this role.
These improvements have included the introduction of increased take-home dosages for those receiving pharmacotherapy treatment so that there’s the option of not having to physically visit a chemist, or the Tasmanian Alcohol and Drug Service every day to receive your treatment.
We have also seen a trial commence of depot buprenorphine, an injectable form of pharmacotherapy treatment that goes even further by providing an option for Tasmanians to receive their treatment through a weekly or monthly injection.
We have also seen work commence on providing free access to the anti-overdose drug naloxone to ensure that it gets to those most vulnerable to the risk of an opioid overdose during these stressful times.
Not only are these initiatives significant for the Tasmanians accessing this treatment, they are changes that bring Tasmania’s services closer in line with the contemporary approaches adopted by our mainland counterparts.
It is our hope that moving forward these changes will remain and transition from ‘COVID-19 responses’ to business-as-normal.
This is not just because there’s a chance that there may be future COVID-19 outbreaks.
It’s because we need to learn from this experience keep moving forward and not backwards to where we were before and ensure that there are some positives during a time that for so many has been filled struggle and loss.
Keep staying safe everyone,
Chief Executive Officer