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First Step defines collaboration as bringing professional view-points from different areas of expertise together to better achieve a desired outcome and to better support our clients.  We place enormous emphasis on the desired outcome being ‘client driven’.  That is, where-ever possible, we aim to help our clients determine the goals they are working towards.

Where this is difficult (due to mental ill-health) we do our best to engage loved ones in the development of these aims.  Often initially the aim is simply to prevent death.  As clients progress through their recovery journey we encourage them to take more ownership in the development of these outcomes.

From a professional perspective First Step works hard ensure that we protect our culture of collaborative practice.  We achieve this in many ways just some of which include:

  • Ensuring that our team consists of highly experienced, open-minded practitioners. Each team member intrinsically understands that they are part of a bigger picture.  None of our practitioners work in isolation with a client.  Some clients require the participation of many practitioners, some only a few. In almost all cases this is a fluid situation that can change rapidly in response to changing needs. 
  • Ensuring that our team has scheduled time for collaboration. This includes regular morning meetings held prior to clinic opening to ensure that all practitioners are able to contribute to discussions in order to benefit from the wealth of collective experience within the First Step team.
  • Ensuring that all practitioners are kept updated with developments in all areas of the clinic (ie new programs coming on board, etc) to ensure that all practitioners stay up to date with all of the services on offer and the ways these services can be used for the advantage of clients.
  • Care coordination is also a key component of our collaborative model. Similar to Case management, Care Co-ordination emphasises the integration of practitioner input for the benefit of a client, including such things as the co-ordination of specific case conferencing and of the delivery of services prescribed or recommended by various practitioners.  

We work hard to ensure that our team participates in the development of services at the clinic.  Responsiveness to changing needs has been a key pillar of the First Step business model (this refers to individuals but also changing community trends that indicate a change is needed in our business model) and we work hard to ensure that we maintain a high level of responsiveness.

An unexpected upside of this model is that it also enables both client AND practitioner to be supported in their management of highly complex illnesses. As a result First Step is able to successfully manage a degree of complexity rarely achieved outside a tertiary (hospital) setting.

External collaboration

First Step has developed many collaborative partnerships over the years with leading clinical and non-clinical organisations to achieve the best results for the people we work with. Collaboration can involve:

  • Team Care: collaborative care of patients between First Step and other organisations (eg. Utilising the psychiatry team at the Alfred Hospital)
  • First Step clinicians providing expertise and services to other organisations (eg. Our doctors attending clients at Windana Drug and Alcohol Recovery)
  • Clinicians from other organisations attending First Step (eg. Gastroenterologists from St Vincent’s Hospital)
  • Sharing expertise and customised database tools (eg. With St Vincent’s Hospital) to maximise best practise care across Melbourne

First Step also collaborates with the corporate and philanthropic sectors to ensure its own financial future, and to enable our supporters to contribute to immediate meaningful outcomes as well as lasting change.  Philanthropic trusts are involved in First Step Legal, our brand new Case Management and Wellbeing program, capacity building (including marketing), general financial support, crisis (Myki top up, vouchers), clinical data managements and other aspects.  View our supporters page here.


To contact First Step to discuss clinical or philanthropic partnerships email [email protected].

First Step also works with local organisations in St Kilda and surrounds to help the community health sector plan and execute collaboratively, and to organise community events such as the World’s Largest Overdose Prevention Training.  We also communicate regularly with State Government (particularly the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the Minister for Mental Health, Martin Foley) to help the government understand trends in drug use and treatment and to lobby for the needs of the sector.