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Natasha

Natasha Perry

Year of Award: 2016 Award State: New South Wales Social Welfare > Drugs, Alcohol And Substances
To determine effective treatment programs for young people with complex substance use problems - New Zealand, USA, Canada, Portugal, Norway

The Churchill Fellowship has further emphasised the international centres of excellence that Australia can turn to for expertise in developing programs and improving our treatment systems. Young people in all of the cities visited had access to a myriad of developmentally appropriate intervention – prevention, early intervention, treatment and targeted specialised care. The resources and funding channeled into supporting young people at the sites visited, was a thoughtful and deliberate investment in the health of young people, and the future health of the nation.

In particular, CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) in Toronto, Canada had a sophisticated and well developed evidence based integrated stepped care treatment service for young people under 18. This centre acknowledged that unique needs of young people and recognised that mental health comorbidity was often the rule, rather than the exception, and their treatment modalities, systemic partnerships and workforce skills and capacity also reflected this. They offered a range of treatment services from outpatient groups through to inpatient stabilisation. Observing the clinical practice of such high calibre was both informative and filled me with optimism for the future services in Australia.

Other sites that were particularly impressive had overcome barriers to accessing treatment through innovation. Denver Health provided in-reach to high-risk schools and had impressive clinical research and evaluations to provide evidence for their program and the programs evolution and quality improvement. They also used contingency management and animal assisted therapy to support engagement in treatment. We also have a lot to learn from our neighbours in New Zealand, the treatment system in Portugal, the amazing clinical researchers from Charleston, the equine therapists in Norway and the outpatient services in Boston.

Spending time and gaining knowledge and expertise from world leaders like Professor Kathleen Brady, Professor Yifrah Kaminer, Professor Christian Thurston and Assistant Professor Sharon Levy was both insightful and a privilege.

Each site visited offered valuable learnings that could form key ingredients in improving the treatment system here in Australia. The internationally networking has provided a platform for information sharing and to develop partnerships and collaboration opportunities to support young people at-risk across the globe.

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