How can service providers better support people who have both mental health and alcohol & other drug problems?

Co-occurring ProjectDespite the fact that 63 per cent of people who misuse substances have some sort of mental health challenge, it is the experience of many people that service providers are not well equipped to support them with the complexity that arises from this.

So a new project currently underway at the Western Australian Association for Mental Health (WAAMH) and funded by the Western Australian Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) is looking at practical ways service providers working in the mental health sector can recognise and support a person with co-occurring mental health and alcohol & other drug problems.

WAAMH Project Officer Mandy Kiely said she was working with four mental health organisations who were interested in building their capability in this area, to identify the systems and processes they already had in place to support people with co-occurring issues and build capacity where it was needed.

“We are fortunate that organisations such as the Mental Illness Fellowship of WA, Life Without Barriers, UnitingCare West and Rise Community Network are so committed to putting their clients first and learning how they can grow and develop as an organisation to better support people who have complex needs,” Ms Kiely said.

“In the past, people with both mental health issues and alcohol and drug problems have often bounced around services because there are very few that are equipped to truly support the whole person."
Mandy Kiely, Project Coordinator

"Staff have often felt keenly that in treating only the mental health issue or the substance problems it has been missing the bigger picture or that person’s experience, hampering their recovery.”

“We know people with co-occurring issues have poorer general mental and physical health, higher rates of suicide, homelessness, hospitalisation and relapse. In order to have the right foundations in place for a person to start their recovery journey, it’s crucial address both mental health and alcohol and other drug problems concurrently,” she said.

Ms Kiely has also been engaging with alcohol and other drug services and looking at opportunities to raise capability across sectors in this area.

The project runs until November and uses a comprehensive assessment tool called the Dual Diagnosis Capability in Mental Health Treatment Tool (DDCMHT) to identify what the organisation is currently doing to support people with co-occurring issues, and actions they can take to increase the capacity of staff and the organisation as a whole in this area. The DDCMHT assesses an organisation’s capacity to provide support for people who have both a mental illness and co-occurring substance-use issue and provides practical suggestions for how an organisation can increase its capacity to work with consumers who have co-occurring challenges.

For more information on WAAMH's Co-Occurring Capabilities Project, contact Project Officer Mandy Kiely on AKiely@waamh.org.au

About the participating organisations

Please enter an image description. UnitingCare West, Personal Helpers and Mentors Program (PHaMS)

PHaMS is for people 16 years and over and who have a severe and persistent mental illness, and uses a strengths-based, holistic approach that focuses on a person’s strengths rather than challenges, and a recovery approach, which recognises that a person can live a satisfying and contributing life within the limitations caused by their illness.

Rise Rise Community Support Services, Housing Support Services Program

This program is provided on an outreach basis to help people who have a serious and persistent mental illness, who are homeless, transient or at risk of homelessness, to access stable accommodation or maintain their accommodation while admitted in a psychiatric unit. A continuum of care approach ensures people remain with the same support worker until stable housing has been maintained over a period.

LWB Life Without Barriers: Ngatti House, Fremantle

Ngatti House works with young people aged 17-22 who show signs and symptoms of mental illness while homeless, or at risk of homelessness. The service provides medium-term accommodation and has a partnership with Youth Reach South who provide clinical support.  Ngatti House is based on building self-esteem, recovery and the capacity for young people to achieve their desired goals in a safe space. Young people are also supported to transition out of the program.

MIFWA Mental Illness fellowship of WA (MIFWA), Wellways Duo Snapshot Program and the Early Intervention Recovery Program (EIRP)

The Wellways Duo Snapshot is part of the Wellways suite of programs offered by MIFWA and is a peer-led program offering an introduction to the issues faced by families and carers of people with a mental illness who also use alcohol and/or other drugs. It provides essential information and support through information sharing, group discussion, films and practical activities as well as presentations form people about their own lived experience from a family/carer perspective. The EIRP is for people aged 18-30 who have been diagnosed with mental illness, including a first episode psychosis. It is a six to 24-month program which support participants to re-establish or maintain social, professional and educational networks. Participants work with a community mental health worker to set goals and priorities. Rehabilitation, independent living skills and recreation are all addressed.