Breaking down the barriers:
innovative collaborations between
the education, AOD and mental
Who are we?
• long and short term residential
• youth and family services
• Kids in Focus, specialist child,
parent and family support service
• adult counselling and support
• supported accommodation
• dual diagnosis
• employment counselling
• financial counselling
• drink driver education
• parent support program
• education and training (RTO)
Victorian holistic alcohol and other drug treatment service:
Why are we here?
• The problem: at-risk young people
• The research: best practice approaches
• The model: Building Resilience in Community
• The learnings: the relevance of BRICS to other
By communicating the learnings from the BRICS
model we aim to demonstrate that, if we are
inclusive in approach, we can develop new,
exciting and effective ways of engaging at-risk
young people across multiple education
sectors, while building the welfare capacity of
those already working with these young
Young people (16 – 24) at risk of or experiencing
substance use and/or mental health problems:
• can be difficult to engage
• are daunted by and unsure of treatment options
• have competing priorities.
Consequently, highly vulnerable young people fall
through the gaps.
Our challenge as a drug
How can we:
• Better identify and engage highly vulnerable
young people before the point of crisis?
• Become an ongoing, trusting and available
presence in these young people’s lives?
• Provide treatment to these young people on their
terms and in safe, familiar environments?
• Effectively support the people and organisations
already working with at-risk youth?
Why is this important to you?
• Mental health problems are the number one
issue facing young Australians.
• Just under ¼ of young sufferers seek help.
• Young people with mental health disorders are
5 x more likely to use substances.
• Nearly 13% of young Australians aged 16 – 24
have a substance use disorder.
• Young people with substance use disorders
are the least likely to access services.
(VCOSS & YACVic, 2013; ABS, 2011; headspace position paper, 2011).
Best practice response
To best respond to the needs of vulnerable young people
we need to strengthen:
• Positive and protective factors (Silburn, 2003).
• Early intervention and easy service accessibility (VCOSS
& YACVic, 2013; McGorry, 2007; headspace position
• Relationships with young people (YACVic 2013)
• Educational engagement (the Gatehouse project, 2001;
• Service collaboration (YACVic, 2013).
Our small scale solution:
Building Resilience in Community Schools, BRICS
BRICS is an early intervention, treatment and education
program for young people attending community
schools; alternative education settings.
BRICS has been funded for 5 years by the William
Buckland Foundation (to end in Dec 2014).
BRICS stage 1, 2010 – 2012:
• 2 community schools and 1 alternative education setting.
BRICS stage 2, 2013 – 2014:
• 6 community school sites, and 1 alternative education
• Government advocacy campaign.
The project also includes:
• A 5 year evaluation overseen by Prof. John Toumbourou,
School of Psychology, Deakin University.
The BRICS breakdown
Experienced drug and alcohol clinicians are
embedded into the education setting to
• Counselling, assertive outreach, support and
referral for young people and their
• Secondary consultation, training and
professional development for teaching and
• A 10 week drug and mental health education
• A peer leadership program.
Additional wrap-around services
Camps Recreational activities Brokerage fund
The embedding approach
The clinician is embedded into
the school community
• being based at the school
• classroom involvement
• taking part in excursions,
camps, whole school
meetings, extra curricula
• attending staff and welfare
‘I have no future at the moment. I am always scared. I hate the person I’ve become.’
A text message received by one of our BRICS’s clinicians.
Community school challenges
• Young people from highly disadvantaged and
dysfunctional backgrounds at risk of or
experiencing substance use and mental health
• Challenging behavioural and welfare
• Lack of sufficient resources or expertise to manage
the full range of student welfare issues.
• Community schools often represent the last
chance for vulnerable young people to remain
engaged with education.
The demographics of the BRICS kids
• 38% unstable circumstances, incl.
• 13% out-of-home care
• 68% problematic household substance use
• 67% principal drug of choice daily
• 20% principal drug of choice several days
• 91% polydrug users
• 79% no prior drug treatment
(Deakin University 2013).
Of the 79 young people engaged in stage 1 of the BRICS program:
Deakin University research partnership
• Five year comprehensive evaluation, incl. literature review to establish BRICS evidence-base.
• Project measured according to a range of participant impacts including substance use,
physical and mental health, levels of connectedness, legal issues, psychological factors and
Preliminary results evidence the significant benefits of the BRICS model:
• High student, teacher and carer engagement with the project.
• Significant improvements across a range of impacts.
• High levels of client and teaching staff satisfaction with the service provided.
What we know to date...
Embedding clinicians into education settings means:
• Therapeutic relationships form organically: students feel
comfortable in both approaching and being approached by
the clinician to access support – in stage 1 just under 40% of
referrals to BRICS were student self referrals.
• Maintained engagement: 30% of students across the initial 2
pilot schools were engaged in the program; the average
length a young person stayed in program being 6.7 months.
• Greater welfare capacity of the education setting: onsite, easily
accessible professional development, secondary consultation
and specialist workshops means education settings are better
equipped to identify, work with and refer at-risk young people.
Why the embedding services model?
• Breaks down barriers to help-seeking
• Sees the early identification,
engagement and treatment of at-risk
• Builds welfare capacity by
supporting and educating the
people who work with these young
• Increases resilience and protective
• Encourages coordinated service
delivery between different sectors.
Why educational settings?
Schools and TAFE institutions are:
• Universal services uniquely placed to identify at-risk
young people and their families.
• Safe and familiar environments for young people.
Where to from here?
There is a need for a greater government-funded
welfare response to address the high
prevalence of substance use and mental
health issues across educational settings.
We need to provide a targeted, coordinated
response that brings together the education
and welfare sectors to prevent vulnerable
young people falling through the gaps.
BRICS stage 2
• Build a stronger body of evidence for the
embedding services model.
• Actively work with our research, education and
welfare sector partners, and with government to
more effectively meet the needs of at-risk young
• Advocate for a reform which places a new focus
on strengthening the relationship between the
education and welfare sectors, including a
universal platform of service collaboration that
sees services embedded within educational
Celebrating the project on a national scale
Excellence in Treatment Services for Young People
2012 National Drug and Alcohol Awards