The National Comorbidity Collaboration (NCC) was established in September 2008 as a time limited group (with operation approved until July 2011) to provide advice to the AHMC and the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy (MCDS), through their relevant sub-committees, on options for improved linkages between the National Mental Health Strategy and the National Drug Strategy.

The NCC consists of senior Commonwealth and State and Territory alcohol and other drugs (AOD) and mental health officials; representation from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA); the Private Mental Health Alliance; and law enforcement.

Fourth national mental health plan implementation activity

Action 20: Improve linkages and coordination between mental health, alcohol and other drug and primary care services to facilitate earlier identification of, and improved referral and treatment for, mental and physical health problems

The NCC is currently undertaking work in relation to Action 20 from Priority Area 3 of the Fourth National Mental Health Plan. The NCC has incorporated tasks towards meeting this Action in its work plan. The NCC has focused work in three areas:
  • Workforce development and training
  • Taxonomy for use in AOD and mental health contexts and
  • Comorbidity data. Top of page

Workforce development

The Terms of Reference of the NCC included establishing workforce development and training as an immediate priority. In particular, to enhance workforce development and training approaches, with priority given to the development of nationally recognised competencies, for the various types of workforces employed in the management and treatment of comorbidity.

The NCC has scoped existing comorbidity training (including competency based training) and skill development opportunities in Australia producing a workforce development, capacity building and leadership background paper for consideration.

The paper presented the findings of a jurisdictional survey of workforce development and training and the information on comorbidity training assembled by National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA) in 2007. It also outlines the workforce development issues highlighted by this information and a number of recommendations for the NCC to consider.

On the basis of the findings and discussion presented in the paper the NCC agreed to consider the recommendations, as follows:

  • A National comorbidity workforce strategy be developed that builds on the work of NCETA in the AOD sector and includes training as a key component and
  • National comorbidity guidelines for the mental health sector be developed to complement the AOD sector comorbidity guidelines and provide a basis for national training and curriculum development.
A workforce subgroup of the NCC is considering these recommendations and it is recognised that any work in this area needs to link to the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy and the National Drug Strategy. Top of page


The NCC agreed that there is a need to develop a clear taxonomy relating to comorbidity for use in the AOD and mental health sectors. In order to develop a taxonomy, the following needed to be taken into account:
  • Definitions in existing data sets (e.g. the National Minimum Data Set)
  • Definitions in key strategies (e.g. the National Drug Strategy and the Fourth National Mental Health Plan) and
  • Existing classification models (e.g. the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
A scoping paper with a preliminary list of key words and definitions developed in consultation with NCC members and jurisdictions is currently being developed. This scoping paper, once finalised will help inform the NCC decision to commission any further work.


On behalf of the NCC, the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing undertook initial scoping of existing Comorbidity data sources.

At the 29 July 2010 NCC meeting, members agreed that there was no minimum data set for comorbidity data, and that a statistical linkage key (SLK) would be more beneficial to identify comorbid conditions rather than presentations. The Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs is currently developing an SLK, therefore a similar activity has been fed into Action 20.