Many people who experience mental health difficulties, mental illness and/or problematic alcohol and other drug use have complex needs and require access to a wide range of services.
While navigating different services can present significant challenges, people living in rural and remote Queensland face additional difficulties in accessing the services they need.
One person, many stories: consumer experiences of service integration and referrals in far western Queensland, released in September 2018, reports the findings of a project that investigated how to improve the take up of service referrals for people with lived experience in far western Queensland.
The project followed earlier research undertaken by CheckUp on behalf of the Commission in 2014–15 into frontline service providers (in the North West, Central West and South West Hospital and Health Service regions) into service integration.
That study revealed services felt clients were not taking up, or not able to take up referrals, and that this was a significant barrier to inter-agency collaboration and effective referrals (and therefore the best outcomes for individual service users).
Study objectives and method
Funded by the Commission and undertaken by the Institute for Social Science Research (The University of Queensland), the project aimed to:
- identify the enablers and barriers to people taking up referrals between services
- identify what individuals want with a focus on meeting their needs holistically,
- what good integration and referral processes mean to them.
As well as literature and policy reviews, ISSR interviewed 39 people with a lived experience in western Queensland as part of the research.
The research project found, among other issues, that for people in western Queensland there is a need to:
- fully consider individual needs, preferences and circumstances when choosing a referral—the referral must be appropriate and practicably accessible to the person
- fully engage the consumer as an active participant in his or her care and referral
- overtly connect the consumer with the service or practitioner, follow up, and support the consumer.
Researchers also found that information sharing between service providers is largely accepted and valued and can contribute to the effectiveness of care and treatment.
The report finds that although these needs are not specific to people living in rural and remote areas, they are highlighted in these locations due to the scarcity of services and inherent challenges of living in more isolated areas.
The research adds to contemporary evidence, particularly in providing a lived experience perspective about how service integration can be improved to better meet the needs of service users.