First Step Approach – Integration
Integration in the context of First Step refers to our commitment to ensure that each client is properly supported in all areas of need. Mental health and addiction, particularly when they occur together, result in highly complex presentations that span physical, mental & psychological health, legal well-being, social inclusion (or isolation) & meaningful engagement (work or study). It is essential to ensure that each client is supported in each of these areas as required. But it is equally important to ensure that changes in one area do not adversely affect other areas of their lives.
This is what we refer to when we talk about integration.
Each recovery journey will encounter circumstances that may require a diversion from some elements of treatment or a doubling down in other areas. The close working relationship between practitioners (GP’s, mental health nurses, lawyers, psychologists, psychiatrists, care co-ordinators and various other allied health professionals) significantly facilitates this nuanced treatment however it is also crucial that the (sometimes) competing needs be actively integrated. This may be as simple as ensuring that multiple appointments are scheduled on the one day or as complex as deferring legal matters while health concerns are stabilised.
The critical part of this model is that it can respond quickly to changing needs either by including additional practitioners or stepping practitioners down when no longer necessary.
At a community level, integration refers to the efforts of First Step to help community members (at all levels from government to the individual) to understand the wider value of rehabilitation and recovery within the community.
First Step works at multiple levels to reduce stigma around substance dependence and mental ill-health primarily because stigma dramatically and adversely affects the willingness of individuals to seek treatment (in the first place) and to feel supported in their commitment to treatment in the second.
We do this via advocacy but also through events such as World’s Largest Overdose Prevention Training.