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Mental health and substance misuse

University of New South Wales

  • Early-Mid Career Fellowship
Date Funded:
  • 1 February, 2017
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Dr. Emma Barrett

The top causes of disease burden among Australians (15–44yrs) are dominated by mental health and substance use disorders. Of particular concern is the common co-occurrence (i.e. comorbidity) of disorders, with up to 50 per cent of people presenting to services with more than one disorder. Despite increased awareness and public concern leading to a major government initiative (National Comorbidity Initiative), comorbid mental health and substance use remains a major cause of disability, poor quality of life, early mortality and poses a significant challenge for the Australian health system.

Evidence suggests that integration of substance use and mental health treatment is ideal for optimal patient outcomes and to avoid patients falling through the gaps. Individuals with comorbidity however, continue to receive disparate care targeting either the mental health or substance use disorder. NSW Health is well placed to be the leader in responding to this crisis by translating high quality comorbidity research evidence to practice. The improved clinical management of comorbidity is a priority for NSW Health and is consistent with the NSW State Health Plan: Towards 2021 which aims to deliver truly integrated care by providing right care in the right place at the right time.

The purpose of this project is to directly address this priority by implementing effective models of translation to increase the capacity for NSW treatment services to respond to comorbidity. The specific objectives are to:

  1. employ standardised US toolkits for assessing comorbidity competency (DDCAT and DDCMHT) and adapt them for adolescent and adult treatment services in NSW and Australia
  2. implement these adapted toolkits and evidence-based recommendations in NSW treatment services to examine utility in assessing comorbidity competency and enhancing capacity to respond to comorbidity.