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Introduction and Aims.High prevalence mental health (HPMH) comorbidity is common in clients seeking alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment yet can remain undetected. Although research has reported on the introduction of screening into AOD services, little research has reported on the processes surrounding the introduction or evaluated its effectiveness. This study reports on the implementation and evaluation of brief anxiety and depression screening within a specialised, publicly funded AOD service in South-East Victoria.

Design and Methods.Study one examined the implementation of standardised HPMH screening with 114 adult clients (Mean age = 35.49, SD = 9.53; 64% male) telephoning an AOD service over a 5 week period. Measures included severity of HPMH problems, AOD use, care plans and referrals. Study two used semistructured interviews with nine staff/managers to evaluate the effectiveness of screening and its impact on service delivery.

Results.Ninety-four per cent of clients were identified at risk of anxiety or depression. Most care plans incorporated counselling, and concurrent referrals commonly involved a general practitioner. Staff and management found systematic screening increased identification and understanding of comorbid issues and enhanced client interaction but impacted on resource requirements.

Discussion and Conclusions.Most AOD treatment seekers were identified HPMH comorbid and care plans generally included counselling. Adjunctive referrals were more common for severely depressed clients. Screening was effective and enhanced client rapport. Evaluations revealed low confidence in treating HPMH issues in-house. Training may increase worker confidence in managing mental health interventions with subclinical cases, enhancing services' ability to move towards dual diagnosis capability.

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Journal Article

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