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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Case study:

ReGen (Uniting)

Uniting’s ReGen service aims to reduce the harm from problematic alcohol and other drug (AOD) use and promote health and wellbeing. ReGen has grown from being a specific AOD service into an integrated AOD and mental health service.

Laurence Alvis, Uniting’s General Manager, Alcohol and Other Drug and Mental Health, spoke of the importance of integrating both services:

We previously were an AOD specific service which found it very frustrating not to have integrated mental health services. There is a strong interaction of our clients, around 70 per cent would have both mental health and AOD issues.

The integration of support services at both service delivery and governance levels is an area that continues to be a focus for Uniting more broadly. Mr Alvis said:

The exciting part of Uniting merging AOD and mental health, is that in solving AOD issues, you can address the co‑existing issues for clients. That is where we see the key opportunities going forward.

ReGen determined that without joint treatment, care and support people would pass through the treatment for AOD but would return repeatedly. Mr Alvis said the integration breaks down siloed approaches to services, and when they started working with everyone together, ‘normal stresses under normal life circumstances didn’t push people into addiction again’.

The provision of an integrated AOD and mental health service also supports a good relationship with local clinical mental health services, again supporting a more holistic service for consumers.

A psychiatric registrar comes into ReGen’s youth and adult residential withdrawal programs to support consumers and staff and for secondary consultation. Mr Alvis notes the importance of leadership in both organisations recognising the links between AOD and mental health services:

This partnership is based on a strong relationship with Northern and NorthWestern Mental Health services. It has been great having leaders who recognise that AOD is a critical part of mental health and see there is a benefit to the clientele of continued collaboration.

ReGen also offers a long‑term non‑residential program that is targeted at those with severe AOD, mental health and homelessness issues. This supports consistency of clinicians throughout a person’s rehabilitation journey. According to Mr Alvis, this builds trust, reduces the risk of dropping out and enables ReGen to comprehensively address a range of issues over a longer period of time.

In addition, ReGen is a registered training organisation that offers training opportunities for AOD workers and provides free courses for consumers and carers, including court and drink drive referrals.

To support ReGen’s integrated approach, staff are trained across both AOD and mental health sectors. All AOD workers complete three mental health competencies, as well as forensic and family violence competencies, in order to provide holistic support.

Source: Uniting ReGen meeting with Commissioners Armytage, Cockram and Fels, 16 April 2020.