23 May 2023

SWSPHN had the opportunity to showcase a new project which aims to address issues facing clients in Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) treatment, who have complex needs which impact their ability to maintain good health and remain in treatment, at a recent conference.

The Psychoeducation Module Project was presented at the Network of Alcohol and other Drugs Agencies (NADA) Conference on 11 and 12 May.

The project was a collaboration between SWSPHN, St Vincent de Paul, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), and 360 Edge, and will deliver individual programs for clients of Rendu House’s Complex Support Needs Program.

The presentation, titled ‘A collaborative approach to plan, implement, and evaluate a psychoeducational program for clients with complex support needs’, was given alongside several other keynote speakers, presentations and panels providing valuable Alcohol and Other Drugs knowledge and insight.

10 May 2023

The strong focus on primary care, with the tripling of the bulk billing incentive and investment in the health workforce to better meet the health needs of the Australians in the 21st century, were among the welcome features of Tuesday’s Federal Budget.

South Western Sydney Primary Health Network (SWSPHN) Acting Chief Executive Officer, Kristen Short, said there was little doubt primary care had been struggling in recent years, with fewer practices in a position to bulk bill, further highlighting the need for strong and ongoing funding commitment for the sector.

“The $3.5 billion committed to bulk billing incentives, $98.2 million for new Medicare rebates for patients who require consultations of longer than 60 minutes and $445.1 million to support team-based care in general practice, are welcome measures to support the revival and protection of a healthcare system which has served us well for decades,” she said.

Other investments of interest to primary care, in particular general practices in South Western Sydney include:

  • $358.5 million for Medicare Urgent Care Clinics
  • $143.9 million for after hours primary care
  • $91.5 million to improve mental health by addressing workforce shortages

Ms Short said SWSPHN had a particular focus on innovative projects like iRAD, the New to General Practice Nursing program and My Care Partners to build capacity and support our general practices in delivering accessible, effective and timely care to our community.

She noted investment in digital health ($951.2 million); increasing the number of nurses in primary care ($10.7 million); and increasing incentives for general practices to employ a range of health professionals to provide team-based primary care ($445.1 million) would support those projects which were already improving the health of our region.

“Primary care is the cornerstone of our healthcare system, and SWSPHN looks forward to continuing to work with and support primary care providers across our region on the projects, services and other activities funded in this budget.

“We particularly welcome the focus in the budget on multidisciplinary team care and voluntary patient enrolment and look forward to seeing how it complements our local medical neighbourhood model of care, My Care Partners, which has been working for the past two years to reduce avoidable hospital admissions and enhance care coordination for people with multiple chronic diseases.”

17 April 2023

The NSW Ministry of Health is continuing work to improve the efficiency of regulating the supply of Schedule 8 medicines in NSW.

Several initiatives which aim to streamline the process to apply for an authority to prescribe and/or supply a Schedule 8 medicine under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966 (NSW) will be introduced in 2023.

New NSW OTP authority application forms now available

The majority of application forms were reviewed and updated at the end of 2022. The final stage of the review of application forms is now complete with four new forms related to the management of patients under the NSW Opioid Treatment Program, are available for use. 

The new OTP authority application forms:

  • will assist with management of patients under the NSW Opioid Treatment Program and support new protocols for treatment
  • are PDF editable and are accessible on the NSW Health website
  • replace the old OTP authority application forms which were on the NSW Health website and in the OTP Clinical Guidelines
  • align with the online process for applying for authorities which will be available to health practitioners later this year as part of new features being released within SafeScript NSW

Prescribers of OTP are encouraged to:

  • access the new OTP forms via the NSW Health website to ensure you are using the latest version of the forms
  • delete any old forms that have been downloaded and saved locally as templates
  • dispose of any blank hard copies of the old forms

Prescribers with existing authority to prescribe OTP will not be expected to reapply for existing patients with the new OTP forms. The new OTP forms should be used for new applications submitted on or after 6 April 2023. There will be a short transition period after which the old forms will no longer be accepted.

Updated Centre for Alcohol and other Drugs guidelines are also available to guide practitioners on using microdosing or bridging transfer techniques.

Upcoming system changes

On 1 May, the system used by NSW Health to process authority applications will change. During this time, there may be delays in responding to enquiries and delays in the processing of authority applications.

From 12pm on Friday, 28 April, the system to process applications will be unavailable.

Applications received after 12pm may not be processed until Monday, 1 May.

Where applications for authority are anticipated, in the week of 24 to 28 April, consider submitting applications prior to 12pm on Friday, 28 April where possible to avoid delays in processing of applications.

If you have any questions or would like to provide feedback, please email MOH-PharmaceuticalServices@health.nsw.gov.au

28 November 2022

Save the date for the Network of Alcohol and other Drugs Agencies (NADA) Conference 2023: Creating safe spaces, to be held on 11 and 12 May 2023 at the ICC Sydney.
The event will showcase interventions designed to improve outcomes for clients, inform with new ideas and provide networking opportunities.

Visit NADA for details



This article appeared in Practice Pulse on Wednesday, 23 November 2022. If you are a GP, practice nurse or practice manager in South Western Sydney and do not get the weekly Practice Pulse email, speak to your Practice Support Officer.

02 November 2022

SWSPHN’s Mental Health and Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) team facilitated the 6th annual Mental Health and Alcohol and Other Drugs Roundtable event at Rydges Campbelltown on Tuesday, 1 November.

Each year, the roundtable brings together key stakeholders who support people experiencing mental health and/or alcohol and other drug issues in our region with the aim of fostering collaboration between service providers and strategising the integration of multidisciplinary care for people experiencing co-morbidity issues.

This year, we welcomed Dr Elizabeth Conroy from Western Sydney University to speak on insights from a research perspective of mental health and AOD co-morbidity. Russell Bickford from Odyssey House NSW and Benjamin Ong from Head to Health also inspired participants with organisational experience with integration.

Other guest speakers included community members with living experience and Rush Electra from the South Western Sydney Local Health District Drug Health team discussing the role of the Drug Health Consumer Engagement Manager and service integration.

The event concluded with a brainstorming session about the Organisations’ Action Plan (OAP), where participants talked about how organisations can improve coordination and integration of Mental Health and AOD support for consumers residing in South Western Sydney.

Mh and AOD Roundtable    Mental Health and Alcohol and Other Drugs Roundtable - Nov 2022

21 October 2022

After years of screaming from the rooftops, “if you’re in crisis call Lifeline, if you’ve got a problem, please put your hand up and ask for help” we are now seeing people reach out in numbers we’ve never seen before.

Lifeline International President and keynote speaker, John Brogden AM had this positive message for attendees at SWSPHN’s Mental Health Symposium 2022 at Rydges, Campbelltown on Wednesday, 19 October.

The symposium aimed to highlight a range of innovative local programs, initiatives and supports to address the needs of South Western Sydney, and work towards improved mental health outcomes.

It was facilitated by Adam Holstein who has been working in the community services sector for more than 20 years in the areas of youth work, disability services, training and mental health.  

Mr Brogden joined Anthea Raven, from the Mental Health Access Branch of the Department of Health and Aged Care, as the two keynote speakers for the event.

The former NSW Opposition Leader shared his personal experiences “living” with mental illness and suicidal ideation with an audience of almost 200 attendees via Zoom from Ghana, West Africa where he is supporting the establishment of a Lifeline-style helpline.

“Early in my time at Lifeline, when our call numbers used to go up, I used to think there was something wrong – there’s a problem in Australia,” he told the audience. “But now I think the more calls we get, the better the situation is.

“After years and years of telling people to reach out, we are now seeing them reach out. We are now seeing them in numbers we’ve never seen before.

“Lifeline is an anonymous service. What people can’t tell mum, dad, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, best friend, boss, whoever it might be, they can ring a complete stranger. We practice nonjudgmental listening – that’s an important element of what we do.”

The symposium was held face-to-face for the first time since 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opening the event, SWSPHN Director of Planning and Performance, Amy Prince, said she was struck by how much the landscape had changed in the face of pandemic since our last symposium.

“Service providers have adapted and changed their service models to address the increasing needs of consumers,” she said.

“The community in South Western Sydney has experienced fires, floods, tragic accidents and some of the harshest lockdown restrictions in the state.

“Over the past few years our communities have lived through what is hopefully the most challenging social and political environment they will face in their lifetime.

“And our frontline mental health service providers have been right alongside them. I want to say a heartfelt thank you to each of you.”

The symposium’s morning session included presentations from commissioned service providers including One Door Mental Health (Connector Hub), Odyssey House NSW (services available for Alcohol and Other Drugs and mental health comorbidity) and headspace Bankstown (Flourish Australia).

SWSPHN Mental Health and AOD Manager, Jade Weidner, gave an implementation overview of the South Western Sydney Regional Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan before attendees broke into groups for workshops.

The afternoon session included presentations on the You in Mind Peer Support Program, supports for bushfire affected communities, Changing Life Keep Your Balance Bilingual Community Education Program and the Workforce Capacity Building Project at Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council.

The event concluded with a panel discussion with experts on suicide prevention and aftercare, a self-care session presented by South Western Sydney Recovery College and a raffle draw.

After the symposium, Ms Weidner thanked all those who contributed to making the event such a success, including the keynote speakers, the wonderful Welcome to Country by the Koomurri Dance Group, presenters and workshop facilitators.

“It was fantastic to be back in the room with so many people committed to improving mental health outcomes in our region, to share experiences and knowledge,” she said.

“Feedback on the day has been positive with attendees describing the symposium as informative, educational, fun and inspiring.”

The symposium attracted participation from across the South Western Sydney community, SWSPHN commissioned service providers and government and non-government mental health-related organisations.

06 September 2022

Odyssey NSW will begin delivering alcohol and other drug (AOD) services for culturally and linguistically diverse communities in South Western Sydney this month, following the imminent closure of Drug and Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre (DAMEC).

SWSPHN has funded DAMEC to deliver AOD counselling and case management in the region since 2017.

DAMEC works with culturally and linguistically diverse communities in South Western Sydney, with people speaking a range of languages, primarily Farsi, Vietnamese, Arabic, Mandarin and Cantonese. It employs multi-lingual counsellors in these and other languages.

After more than 30 years of service in the community, DAMEC has decided to cease operations and will not provide services after 30 September 2022.

SWSPHN will now fund Odyssey NSW to deliver AOD services in South Western Sydney. Transfer of services is ongoing and Odyssey NSW is expected to commence delivery on 12 September 2022.

In recognition of the high level of service provided by DAMEC over the years and to provide continuity of care to clients, Odyssey has retained existing staff where possible, to deliver the same model of care from existing phone numbers and address in Liverpool.

Where possible, clients will continue with the same counsellor.

Odyssey will recruit suitably qualified and culturally appropriate staff as required. 

Odyssey is a well-known and respected service in South Western Sydney, with alcohol and other drug treatment services operating in the region for more than 45 years.

In addition to their residential rehabilitation and withdrawal services, Odyssey operates community programs in Fairfield, Campbelltown and Bowral, as well as services in Western Sydney and throughout the Greater Sydney region.

SWSPHN looks forward to continuing an existing close relationship with Odyssey NSW and will provide ongoing support and funding for transition of care and ongoing culturally and linguistically diverse services.

Please direct questions to:

Val Burge, SWSPHN, Val.Burge@swsphn.com.au

David Kelly, Odyssey House, David.Kelly@odysseyhouse.com.au

24 June 2022

Cancer Council is seeking expressions of interest from community service organisations and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations to join its Tackling Tobacco program to help continue to decrease smoking rates in the local communities which require the most support.

no to smoking

Tackling Tobacco is a step-by-step program which aims to reduce smoking-related harm among priority populations which experience high levels of social and economic disadvantage.

Through Tackling Tobacco, Cancer Council helps organisations address smoking, and support people who access their services and their staff to quit.

The program is free to join and works by delivering training for staff and volunteers, providing a dedicated Cancer Council representative for 12 months, offering financial grants based on need, sharing resources and facilitating monthly steering group meetings.

To express your interest in joining the program, email tacklingtobacco@nswcc.org.au, call 9334 1911 by Thursday, June 30. Alternatively, organisations can complete the Expression of Interest form.

Find out more

22 June 2022

A new system to help improve the safe use of high-risk medicines, SafeScript NSW, is now accessible in South Western Sydney.

What is SafeScript NSW?

SafeScript NSW is computer software which provides prescribers (general practitioners, other medical specialists and nurse practitioners) and pharmacists with real-time information about a patient’s prescribing and dispensing history for certain high-risk medicines. These are known as monitored medicines and include opioids (eg codeine, morphine or oxycodone) and benzodiazepines (eg alprazolam, diazepam or nitrazepam).

How will SafeScript NSW help make the use of high-risk medicines safer?

Some monitored medicines taken in high doses or when taken with other medicines, can be dangerous, and even cause death. In 2019, there were 1,644 unintentional deaths due to drug overdoses in Australia. There were 429 (26 per cent) deaths due to pharmaceutical opioids and 582 (35 per cent) deaths involving benzodiazepines. SafeScript NSW aims to help reduce harm from monitored medicines and save lives.

How will SafeScript NSW affect what medicines I’ll be prescribed?

SafeScript NSW does not tell a health practitioner what to do or whether a medicine should or should not be prescribed or dispensed. This decision remains with the prescriber and pharmacist as they are best placed to consult with their patient and determine the safest and best option based on their individual health needs.

What is included in the monitored medicines list?

An expert panel was established to advise NSW Health on the medicines that should be monitored in SafeScript NSW.

NSW monitored medicines includes:




Including but not limited to buprenorphine, codeine, fentanyl, hydromorphone, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, pethidine, tapentadol, tramadol

Benzodiazepines (prescribed for anxiety or sleep)

Including but not limited to alprazolam, bromazepam, clobazam, clonazepam, diazepam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, midazolam, nitrazepam, oxazepam, temazepam

Other sleeping aids

zolpidem, zopiclone

Psychostimulants (prescribed for ADHD and narcolepsy)

dexamfetamine, lisdexamfetamine, methylphenidate


ketamine, pregabalin, quetiapine, cannabis based medicines in Schedule 8
All other Schedule 8 medicines (Controlled Drugs) not listed above

Where to find more information

Visit SafeScript NSW for more information.

13 July 2021

Did you know?

  • 25.9 per cent of adults over 16 drink alcohol at levels which puts their health at risk (compared to 22.1 per cent across NSW)
  • More people are misusing pharmacy medications across Australia, with a large increase in men aged 30 to 39 years and women aged 40 to 49 years
  • Methamphetamine related hospitalisations have risen
  • Cannabis and binge drinking are the main concern in young people
  • People who use drug and alcohol are more likely to experience a mental health problem

Source: Drug and Alcohol Needs Assessment in 2016


One of SWSPHN’s key priorities is to reduce the impacts of Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) use on the South Western Sydney community.

With this goal in mind, we commission a range of AOD treatment services and work with the local AOD sector, GPs and community to co-design services which are tailored to the unique needs of our community.

Another important feature of SWSPHN’s work in this area, is the support and education we provide to local primary carers.

This month Under the Microscope looks at some of the ways in which we work with general practices in South Western Sydney to improve their care of patients with AOD concerns.


GP Drug and Alcohol Advice and Support Service 

SWSPHN works with South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) to provide the GP Drug and Alcohol Advice and Support Service.

The service includes: 

  • Direct real-time access to local drug health clinicians. Further input can be sought from medical specialists as required. 
  • Available weekdays 9am to 5pm (excluding public holidays)
  • Advice on clinical issues, from screening through to management and referral pathways

GP AOD Advice and Support Helpline: 0455 079 436


The 5As framework

There is evidence Australian GPs may not be identifying up to 70 per cent of risky/high-risk drinkers. To support early intervention, SWSPHN supports GPs to use the 5As framework which encourages screening assessment and brief intervention, and has been proven as an effective approach.

The framework provides health professionals with an evidence-based approach to identifying and supporting high-risk behaviours. The 5As consist of:

  • Ask: systematic identification of risk factors
  • Assess: multiple risk, readiness to change, health literacy
  • Advise/Agree: tailored information, motivational interviewing, goal setting
  • Assist: referral to intensive intervention
  • Arrange: follow up, maintenance

AOD localised HealthPathways have been developed to help guide health professionals in providing appropriate care through clinical referral pathways and support services. The service directory of local AOD support services can also help support GPs with the implementation of the 5As framework.

Tools for implementing 5As:


Learning opportunities

SWSPHN works with the AOD sector to develop suitable educational opportunities for primary carers to increase their skills, knowledge and confidence in managing patients with substance abuse issues. Visit our CPD events page.

The Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) requires medical practitioners to become accredited OTP prescribers by completing the Opioid Treatment Accreditation Course (OTAC). All patients must be initiated and stabilised on the OTP by an accredited prescriber before they can be transferred to the care of a non-accredited provider. 

Download a form to apply for authorisation


Other helpful resources for primary carers