Authors: South Metropolitan Area Health Service – Mental Health (SMAHS) Western Australia
Event: 2009 TheMHS Awards
Type of resource: TheMHS Awards
Award state: WA
Award level: Finalist
Award category: Infant, Child and Adolescent Services or Programs
Abstract: Complex behavioural behaviours (e.g. conduct disorders & substance abuse) are high prevalent and potentially very costly child and adolescent mental health problems, yet they rarely respond to clinic-based services once children are aged over 10-12 years. After several years of extensive consultation and international search for a culturally robust, evidence-based intervention for families with older children & adolescents (11-16 years) having severe and complex behavioural problems, the W. A. Department of Health established their Multi-systemic Therapy (MST) Program in 2005. MST is a community-based intervention teaching parents / caregivers skills to improve their children’s behaviour. The program specifically targets children/adolescents at imminent risk of home or school expulsion, is limited to 3 – 6 months intervention only, and involves multiple stakeholders (usually family, school and community members). Clinicians are highly trained and available 24/7 to support parents to master the skills required to attain & maintain improved behaviour of their children. Description of Facility/Organisation: The Western Australian Health Department’s MST Program has two clinical teams with catchment areas located in the more extreme southern and northern regions of the Perth metropolitan area. Each team is comprised of a clinical psychologist coordinator, a half-time clerical officer, and four MST Clinicians including an Aboriginal Torres Straight Islander (ATSI) specialist. MST Clinicians are recommended to be post-graduate trained mental health professionals and the positions are usually filled by clinical psychologists. MST Clinicians operate with relatively small caseloads (4 – 6 families) but utilise an intensive, community-based approach involving multiple visits with families each week. The work is demanding, highly structured, closely supervised and involves variable hours of work. Treatment goals are determined with the family but typically involve improved school attendance, cessation of substance use, decreased verbal and physical aggression, reduction/cessation of antisocial and criminal activities, decreased antisocial peer involvement, and increased involvement with pro-social peers and activities.