In alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment settings, co-occurring mental health conditions are the rule rather than the exception. Nearly half of people seeking treatment are estimated to have a co-occurring mental health condition, and present with a more complex and severe clinical profile. The high prevalence of co-occurring conditions means that AOD workers are frequently faced with the need to manage complex psychiatric symptoms, which has been cited as a major challenge and ongoing training gap for almost two-thirds of Australian AOD workers. The third edition of the Guidelines on co-occurring conditions, which were officially launched by Guidelines lead author Dr Christina Marel, at the 2023 APSAD Symposium on Monday 24 July, aim to bridge this gap by building capacity in the AOD workforce in relation to responding to co-occurring mental health conditions.
In 2020, the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care funded researchers from the Matilda Centre to develop the third edition of the Guidelines on the management of co-occurring alcohol and other drug and mental health conditions in alcohol and other drug treatment settings. The Guidelines were developed in consultation with families and carers, people with lived experience of mental health and AOD use, clinicians and AOD workers, academics, researchers, and policy makers. In parallel, the existing Guidelines website and online training program were also updated, to facilitate the translation of the Guidelines into practice.
The Guidelines have three key aims:
- Increase the knowledge and awareness of co-occurring mental health conditions;
- Improve the confidence and skills of AOD workers;
- Increase the uptake of evidence-based care.
The third edition of the Guidelines builds on the highly utilised first and second editions, which at the time of third edition release, had been disseminated to more than 37,800 AOD workers and students. Similarly, the updated website and online training program builds on an expansive workforce userbase, which as of January 2023 totaled over 3.6 million page views, >494,000 web sessions and 8,700 online training users. The vast majority of participants reported that the online training program had increased their knowledge, confidence and capacity to address co-occurring mental health conditions in their practice; 85% reported using what they had learnt in their clinical practice, and almost two-thirds reported improved client outcomes.
The Guidelines, website and online training program can be freely accessed via the Guidelines website.