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New figures released today by the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research show that the health and well-being of defendants who are referred to the alcohol Magistrates Early Referral into Treatment (MERIT) program improved after placement on the program.
The MERIT program is a local court program that coordinates entry into drug treatment as part of the bail process for adult defendants. The three month treatment program provides magistrates with information on participant's progress to which can influence appropriate sentencing.
The MERIT program was recently expanded in some local courts for people presenting with alcohol use as their primary problem.
The Bureau conducted telephone interviews with 123 MERIT participants at two and six months after their baseline interview. All interviews used the same standardised measures of health and social functioning, psychological distress and alcohol dependence.
Changes in health and well-being were assessed by comparing results between (1) baseline and the two-month interview and (2) between baseline and the six-month interview.
Two months after commencing the MERIT program, participants showed significant improvements in social functioning, lower levels of psychological distress and lower levels of dependence on alcohol. These results were sustained at the six-month interview.
Commenting on the findings, the Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn, said that, while the findings are encouraging, the lack of a proper control group means that it is not certain the improvements in health and social functioning are attributable to the program.
Source: Lawlink NSW