Featured Symposium: Co-occurring mental health and substance use problems: using technology to support innovation and practice change
Despite the fact that mental and substance use problems commonly co-occur, treatment access for consumers who experience these problems together is unacceptably low in the general Australian population, reaching only about 30% of those in need. When treatment is accessed, evidence-based treatment is only provided to approximately 10% of people in need.
The Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS), at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW has developed a suite of innovative online approaches and resources funded by State and Federal levels of Government to meet this need and improve access to evidence-based treatment resources for comorbidity. These programs include the Australian Guidelines on the management of co-occurring alcohol and other drug and mental health conditions in alcohol and other drug treatment settings (2nd edition), the eCliPSE portal to improve access to evidence-based online treatment programs for co-occurring mental health and substance use problems, and the Cracks in the Ice online toolkit providing up-to-date and evidence-based information about crystal methamphetamine (“ice”) to the Australian community. These initiatives will provide consumers, their families and friends, health professionals, and the general community with easy-to-access, evidence-based information and treatment. This symposium will describe the development and dissemination of these key initiatives.
The Comorbidity Guidelines (Paper 1) aim to increase knowledge and awareness of co-occurring mental health and substance use conditions in alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment settings, improve confidence and skills of AOD workers and increase the uptake of evidence-based care. Ultimately, it is anticipated that this will allow for improved outcomes for people with co-occurring mental health conditions. In order to aid this process, the Guidelines are being disseminated in hard-copy Australia-wide, translated into an innovative online delivery format, and a comprehensive online training program to support uptake into practice is in the final stages of development.
The eCliPSE online portal (Paper 2) aims to facilitate access to evidence-based online screening and eHealth treatments for people experiencing co-occurring mental health and substance use problems, and the clinical services supporting them. The development of the portal has involved engagement with service providers in mental health and AOD sectors to create a clinical pathway to care that supports end users to effectively use the eCliPSE resources. Clinician-specific resources are built into the portal to support mental health and AOD clinicians to better address comorbidity in clients of their service.
Finally, the Cracks in the Ice online toolkit (Paper 3) was developed in response to recommendations of the National Ice Taskforce Final Report in 2015. The toolkit aims to address the Australian community’s information needs about crystal methamphetamine by providing trusted, evidence-based and up-to-date information, resources and training. The toolkit will provide evidence-based information about ice, its effects and where and when to seek help for users; concerned family members and friends; health professionals; teachers, parents and students; and community groups.
Online information, intervention and treatment programs stand to overcome structural, geographical, and attitudinal barriers to treatment access. This suite of innovative online programs developed by CREMS increases the capacity of health professionals and AOD workers to better understand and respond to co-occurring mental health and substance use problems. Additionally, these resources empower individuals and communities to better engage with and seek access to, evidence-based information and treatments, and effective health care services.
What will the audience gain through their attendance?
The audience will learn about significant National and Statewide Australian projects that have been designed to improve access to evidence-based, information, support and interventions for people with co-occurring mental health and substance use problems, through innovative use of technology.
How is this symposium relevant to mental health?
Mental health and substance use problems frequently co-occur, yet treatment is often fragmented and/or difficult to access. Improving access to appropriate, evidence-based care for consumers and raining and support for practitioners is critical.