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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2000 Week 12 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 3957..


Drug Overdose Deaths

(Question No 323)

Mr Stanhope asked the Minister for Health, Housing and Community Care, upon notice, on 7 December 2000:

In relation to drug overdose death statistics:

(1) Who (a) compiles these figures and (b) why does this particular body do it.

(2) How are the statistics on (a) drug overdose deaths, (b) non - fatal drug overdoses compiled and (c) what criteria are used to categorise overdoses.

(3) What assurance is there that the figures published reflect the true position.

(4) How are the statistics analysed to identify emerging trends and issues such as the number of deaths in the Indigenous community.

(5) How much time elapses between the compilation of the figures and their provision to the Minister.

(6) What do you intend to do to ensure that these statistics are maintained and accessible at all times.

Mr Moore: The answer to the member's question is:

1. (a) Statistical information on apparent and confirmed overdoses is provided by the Coroner's Office in consultation with the Police Coroner's Office, who in turn is informed by the ACT Ambulance Service and where appropriate, one of the hospitals.

(b) As each suspected fatal overdose is referred for inquest, the Coroner's Office maintains the information database as a matter of course. This is regularly updated as matters are dealt with by the Coroner. The ACT Ambulance Service attends suspected overdose incidents as a result of a callout to the 000 number. They then contact Police Operations if it is a death, and a patrol car is sent. The Police then contact the Coroner's Officer who notifies the Coroner. The body is then transferred to the Forensic Medicine Centre in Kingston for post - mortem.

2. (a) Where an ambulance has attended a callout for a suspected overdose death, the information is provided to Police Operations and police also attend. In some cases the person may survive the initial suspected overdose and be admitted to hospital. Where a death occurs at a later time, this information is then provided by the hospital to the police and the matter referred to the Coroner. The person's death

may be suspected of being attributable to illicit drugs, but this needs to be confirmed through Coroner's inquest and report. It should be noted that the majority of suspected drug overdoses, and subsequent admissions to hospital, are not a result of illicit drugs, but as a result of licit substances, including prescription drugs, over the counter medication and alcohol poisoning.

(b) Information on non - fatal overdoses is compiled by the Ambulance Service and reflects the number of callouts attended by the Ambulance Service where the person was revived or did not require assistance.


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