Making Links An AOD, Mental Health and Homelessness Partnership

Making Links: An AOD, Mental Health and Homelessness Partnership

Making Links is a partnership between the AOD, Mental Health and Homelessness Sectors in Melbourne’s north and west.

In 2015 strategic and catchment plans from the Homelessness, Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) and Mental Health sectors all identified cross sector development as a key priority. In response, the three Sectors established a joint project to improve coordination across the three sectors in Melbourne’s north and west.

Input about the needs of shared clients and the effectiveness of cross sector work to date was gathered from more than 200 individuals through practitioner surveys, consultation forums, and representative advisory committees. A data snapshot was undertaken, reporting on the needs of over 2,000 clients. This snapshot revealed a significant proportion of clients who do access, or would benefit from accessing, services across the three Sectors.

Following this consultation, the Making Links partnership was established with the following key objectives:

• To better understand our shared clients and how they are accessing services
• To provide an orientation to each other’s service system
• To create an opportunity for collaborative problem solving
• To enable cross-sector networking
• To explore improvements to service coordination for shared clients, and
• To improve understanding of ongoing / future changes to each other’s sectors.

Outcomes of the project:

  • A cross sector Orientation Kit to assist new workers to navigate the three services systems in Melbourne's north and west (below)
  • Two cross sector forums (see notes and report below)
  • A cross sector orientation and consultation
  • A series of 'think tanks' resulting in the development of a cross sector models for assisting frequent service users
  • Development of a draft collaborative practice approach.

Orientation Kit: Navigating the AOD, Mental Health and Homelessness Sectors

This document is intended to be a resource for workers in the AOD, mental health and homelessness sectors in Melbourne’s north and west. It has been designed to help with:

• Cross sector referrals

• Providing accurate information to assist you when you’re helping your clients to make decisions about services.

In all systems the need for responses exceeds supply, and service system capacity is under pressure. The format of this document identifies ‘areas of difficulty’ in our respective sectors and outlines ‘tips and tricks’ for practitioners when trying to overcome these. We have tried to be honest about these (wait times, durations of support, parameters for assistance) to help workers to manage consumer expectations and needs.

Making Links Statement of Intent

This project has been guided by a Steering Group comprising of representatives from each of the three Sectors. Members of the Steering Group include: Co Health, NEAMI National, the North West Metropolitan Primary Health Network, the Northern and Western Homelessness Networks, Odyssey, Uniting Care ReGen, VincentCare, Mercy Mental Health, Break Thru, Melbourne City Mission, Northern Partners in Recovery, Royal District Nursing Service (now Bolton Clark), Summit, Unison, North West Regional Children Resource Program, McAuley Community Services for Women and Melbourne Health.

The Making Links Steering Group produced a ‘Statement of Intent’ identifying each Sector’s commitment to progressing the cross sector priorities identified at the first Making Links Forum. This Statement was signed by each of the participating sectors.

Making Links Phase One Report

This report provides an overview of the consultation phase of the project:

• A one day data collection snapshot completed by workers in the three sectors: this was to get a picture of clients that might access services in our three sectors on any one day.

• A survey of workers in the three sectors: to start to quantify workers’ views on the strengths and opportunities for improving the integration between sectors.

• A cross sector Making Links Forum, held on 3 December 2015: bringing the sectors together to create a shared understanding of how clients are accessing services; how each service system operates; and, to provide an opportunity to explore how to improve service coordination.

Making Links Practice Forum One

The purpose of this Making Links Forum was to bring the sectors together in order to create a shared understanding of how clients are accessing services; how each service system operates; and, to provide an opportunity to explore how to improve service coordination.

The Forum commenced with a presentation from representatives of each sector on the services provided by the sector and the client service pathways. This was followed by a presentation on the data from the one day collection snapshot and the key findings from the worker survey responses.

In small groups participants then brainstormed possible actions to strengthen service responses for shared clients using the following themes that had emerged from the worker survey:

  •  Systems responses/improvements
  •  Worker knowledge/practice improvements – working better with people with  AOD/Mental health/housing issues – core competencies
  •  Working together to address demand – diversion, brief intervention
  •  Opportunities to work together with shared clients- coordination
  •  Shared approaches to shared clients – collaboration [Frequent service users.

Making Links Practice Forum Two Notes

This Forum was focussed on cross sector updates, updates on Making Links activities during the past year and on consulting with practitioners about the draft Orientaiton Kit and strategies for collaborative practice. 

Frequent Service User Think Tank 1: Shared understandings

The focus for this Think Tank was the development of a common definition – how do we define the group of service users who we wish to assist across our sectors. The Privacy Commission provided a presentation on the privacy implications of this cross sector work.

Frequent Service User Think Tank 2: Expert Show and Tell

Participants in this 'think tank' drew on learnings from a number of linked projects;

  • Department of Health and Human Services Multiple and Complex Needs Project
  • Taskforce 1000
  • Homeless Outreach Mental Health and Housing Service
  • Launch Housing Frequent Service User Project.

Frequent Service User Think Tank 3: Putting it together

Participants drew on the learnings from the previous two 'think tanks' to develop a shared model for responding to the needs of frequent service users across the three Sectors. 


2 SHS Team Leadership Training - 2 & 3 July
27 National Housing Conference
14 Victorian Homelessness Conference