Home' Vetaffairs : Vetaffairs - Autumn 2017 v2 Contents 6 — Vetaffairs Autumn 2017
Getting treatment for alcohol and other drug misuse
DVA has expanded access to treatment for veterans
experiencing alcohol and other drug (AOD) misuse.
Community-based AOD services panel
For the first time, DVA has contracted a range
of community-based treatment providers to help
veterans struggling with alcohol and drug-related
The DVA Community-based AOD Services Panel
encompasses a range of treatment options, includ-
ing in the areas of assessment, referral, withdrawal
management, psychotherapy, group programs,
supported accommodation, residential treatment,
case management, pharmacotherapy and after-
To access services through these arrangements,
individuals must have a DVA Gold or White Health
Card and be referred through either a medical
practitioner (for example, a GP), the Veterans and
Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS), a
hospital discharge planner or DVA allied mental
health provider (for example, a psychologist or
mental health social worker). A written referral is
Individuals wishing to access these services are
encouraged to speak with their GP or other health
Health professionals who are considering
making a referral can contact DVA’s provider infor-
mation line on 1300 550 457 (metro) or 1800 550 457
(non-metro) for more information. A list of the
providers can be found on DVA’s At Ease website
(www.at-ease.dva.gov.au) – click on ‘Health Profes-
sionals’ then select the ‘Substance Use’ link from
the ‘Assessment and treatment’ drop-down menu.
Expanded eligibility for mental health treatment
The Government has increased treatment eli-
gibility for a range of mental health disorders to
anyone who has served one day in the full-time
Australian Defence Force (ADF).
This means that a greater number of ex-serving
members are now eligible for DVA-funded treat-
ment for alcohol and other substance misuse. See
Factsheet HSV109 on the DVA website (www.dva.
gov.au and enter HSV109 in the search field), email
firstname.lastname@example.org or phone DVA on 133 254.
However, for immediate assistance, contact the
Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Ser-
vice (VVCS) 24/7 on 1800 011 046.
DVA Health Cards
Through their DVA Health Cards, veterans con-
tinue to have access to treatment from a range of
health providers, including GPs, medical specialists
(including addiction specialists), psychologists,
mental health social workers and occupational
therapists, psychiatrists, in-patient hospital ser-
vices, and a range of accredited out-patient services.
Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service
Clients also have access to the VVCS. VVCS
provides free and confidential, nationwide coun-
selling and support for eligible current and former
members of the ADF and their families. VVCS is
available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and
can be contacted by phoning 1800 011 046. Further
information can be found on the VVCS website
(www.vvcs.gov.au) or follow VVCS on Facebook.
More than 90 members of the Townsville community,
including current and former Australian Defence Force
(ADF) members, their family, carers and friends, attended
an outreach program in December 2016 for those concerned
about anti-malarial medications such as mefloquine.
In response to concern in the veteran and Defence com-
munities about the potential health effects of certain
anti-malarial medications used in the ADF, the Govern-
ment committed to establishing a formal community
consultation mechanism on issues concerning meflo-
quine. The Townsville outreach program was the first step
in delivering on the commitment.
DVA’s Principal Medical Adviser, Dr Ian Gardner, together
with representatives from the Repatriation Medical
Authority (RMA), claims processing staff and the Veterans
and Veterans Families Counselling Service answered ques-
tions ranging from the role of the RMA and the Statements
of Principles system, to how to submit a claim with DVA
and how to access support services such as treatment and
‘One of most important things that I hope people took
away from these sessions is that if you are a current or for-
mer ADF member – or a family member, carer or friend of
someone who is – and you have any health concerns, then
reach out, talk to someone and get some help,’ Dr Gardner
‘Any physical or mental health concern, particularly one
that has been ongoing, puts a large amount of stress and
anxiety into people’s lives. Don’t wait to deal with uncer-
tainty – make a booking with your GP and ask for a health
All former ADF personnel can access a comprehensive
health assessment from their GP. This health assessment
is designed to help your GP identify and diagnose the early
onset of any physical or mental health conditions. A Medi-
care rebate is available for this assessment.
DVA has sought feedback from participants who
attended the program, and this will assist us in considering
next steps in relation to future community consultation.
Anyone who has a medical condition they believe has
been caused by the antimalarial medications mefloquine
or tafenoquine can call DVA on 133 254 (or 1800 555 254 from
regional Australia) and ask to speak to someone in the
dedicated mefloquine support team.
If you were unable to attend the Townsville program,
or want to see the information presented, please visit the
DVA website (www.dva.gov.au/mefloquine). The site also
includes information on the support available through
GPs in the Townsville region are able to assist individu-
als who may present with symptoms or conditions that
they attribute to being prescribed mefloquine or tafeno-
quine while in the ADF. Contact details are available on
the DVA website (as above). Please note that DVA does not
recommend or endorse any individual GPs.
Skills that might save a life
The Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling
Service (VVCS) offers suicide awareness and pre-
vention workshops Australia-wide to help equip
people with the tools and confidence to recognise
suicidal tendencies and take preventive action
early. The Operation Life program is available free
of charge to anyone concerned about someone in
the ex-service community.
Starting a conversation with someone you suspect
may be having thoughts of suicide is likely to be
one of the most important things you will ever do.
Your willingness to talk about this emotional issue
with a family member, friend, or co-worker could
be the first step toward saving their life.
It is not always apparent that a person is contem-
plating suicide, but in some cases people do signal
their pain. They may express feelings of worth-
lessness, hopelessness or helplessness. They may
appear to be angry, depressed, sad or lonely.
People thinking about suicide may lose interest
in activities or engage in risky behaviours. They
may give away their possessions, increase alcohol
or drug use, or withdraw from friends, family and
society in general.
If you are worried that someone you care about
may be having suicidal thoughts, there are some
things you can do:
Express your concern, listen without judge-
ment and reassure the person that you care. It is
a myth that asking someone about suicide will
put the idea into their head.
If the person tells you they are contemplating
suicide, help them to choose an appropriately
qualified support person – this might be a GP
or a counsellor. You could offer to book the
appointment or go along with them.
Talk to someone else about your concerns, such
as a health professional or helpline. It is import-
ant that you look after yourself too.
Encourage the person to be active; maybe invite
them for a session at the gym or go for a walk
The Operation Life program comprises three
SafeTalk is a half-day presentation examining
suicide alertness for everyone.
ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills
Training) is a two-day skills training course
aimed at recognising, responding to and under-
standing suicide risk.
ASIST Tune-up is a half-day refresher workshop.
To register your interest in attending, or to find out
more information, including dates and locations,
visit the VVCS website (click on ‘group programs’
then ‘Operation Life’) or call 1800 011 046.
These workshops complement other suicide
awareness and prevention resources, specifically
the Operation Life website and the Operation Life
mobile phone app. To access these useful resources,
visit the At Ease portal (http://at-ease.dva.gov.au/
Notice of investigation
On 14 February 2017, the Repatriation Medical Author-
ity gave notice that it intends to find out whether
Statements of Principles may be determined in respect
of chemically-acquired brain injury caused by meflo-
quine, tafenoquine or primaquine.
Persons and organisations wishing to make a sub-
mission can use the RMA website (www.rma.gov.au/
investigations) to electronically lodge the submission
and supporting information. The website also provides
alternative submission information as well as the RMA
All submissions must be in writing and received by
the Authority no later than 19 May 2017.
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