BACKGROUND: With 150 centers Australia-wide, the headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation is an exemplary integrated youth health service. Headspace centers provide medical care, mental health interventions, alcohol and other drug (AOD) services, and vocational support to Australian young people (YP) aged 12 to 25 years. Co-located headspace salaried youth workers, private health care practitioners (e.g. psychologists, psychiatrists, and medical practitioners) and in-kind community service providers (e.g. AOD clinicians) form coordinated multidisciplinary teams. This article aims to identify the factors influencing the access to AOD interventions for YP, in the Australian rural headspace setting; as perceived by YP, their family and friends, and headspace staff.
METHODS: The study purposively recruited YP (n = 16), their family and friends (n = 9), and headspace staff (n = 23) and management (n = 7) in four headspace centers in rural New South Wales, Australia. Recruited individuals participated in semistructured focus groups about the access to YP AOD interventions in the headspace setting. The study team thematically analyzed the data through the lens of the socio-ecological model.
RESULTS: The study identified convergent themes across groups and found several barriers to the access of AOD interventions; 1) YP's personal factors, 2) YP's family and peer attitudes, 3) practitioner skills, 4) organizational processes and 5) societal attitudes were all identified as negatively impacting access to YP AOD interventions. Practitioners' client-centered stance, and the youth-centric headspace model were factors that were considered as enablers of engagement of YP with an AOD concern.
INTERPRETATION: While this Australian example of an integrated youth health care model is well placed to provide YP AOD interventions, a mismatch existed between practitioner capability and YP needs. The sampled practitioners described limited AOD knowledge, and low confidence in providing AOD interventions. At the organizational level, multiple AOD intervention supply and utilization issues occurred. Taken together, these problems likely underlie previous findings of poor service utilization and low user satisfaction.
CONCLUSION: Clear enablers exist for AOD interventions to be better integrated into headspace services. Future work should determine how this integration can be achieved and what early intervention means in relation to AOD interventions.