Australian Journal of Primary Health Australian Journal of Primary Health Society
The issues influencing community health services and primary health care
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Improving coordination of care for Aboriginal people with mental health, alcohol and drug use problems: progress report on an ongoing collaborative action research project

Inge Kowanko A G , Charlotte de Crespigny B , Helen Murray A , Jackie Ah Kit C , Colleen Prideaux D , Harry Miller C , David Mills E and Carolyn Emden F
+ Author Affliations
- Author Affliations

A Flinders Aboriginal Health Research Unit, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia.

B Discipline of Nursing, University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

C Port Lincoln Aboriginal Health Service, PO Box 1583, Port Lincoln, SA 5606, Australia.

D Ceduna-Koonibba Aboriginal Health Service, PO Box 314, Ceduna, SA 5690, Australia.

E Spencer Gulf Rural Health School, Whyalla, SA 5600, Australia.

F Independent scholar.

G Corresponding author. Email: inge.kowanko@flinders.edu.au

Australian Journal of Primary Health 15(4) 341-347 https://doi.org/10.1071/PY09031
Published: 26 November 2009

Abstract

This paper outlines the background and progress to date of a project to improve the coordination of care for Aboriginal people with mental health and/or alcohol and other drug problems living in the Eyre Peninsula region of South Australia. The project responds to recommendations from previous research by this team in this area, and has been running since 2004. Working with a wide range of health and human service providers, we explored issues that improve or hinder coordination of care and identified useful strategies. Some of these have already been implemented through the project: e.g. interagency cross-disciplinary training in response to shared needs, and lobbying for after-hours telephone help. Other strategies are still in progress: e.g. implementing a uniform triage and referral system and improving information sharing within Port Lincoln Aboriginal Health Service. The paper reflects on our experience of conducting Aboriginal health service research using a participatory action oriented approach, and discusses the challenges in providing effective and well coordinated rural and remote mental health/alcohol and other drug care in the context of complex health and social needs of Aboriginal people.

Additional keywords: coordinated care, Indigenous, social and emotional wellbeing.


Acknowledgements

We thank the many individuals and organisations who have given so generously of their time and knowledge during this project, during formal interviews and informal discussion. The project would not have been possible without the ongoing commitment and enthusiasm of the Boards and staff of PLAHS and CKAHS, and the strength of the research team collaboration. Funding support from Flinders University, Cooperative Research Centre in Aboriginal Health and Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (a partnership of the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia and Flinders University) is gratefully acknowledged.


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