Substance use and mental health concerns - The Way Ahead: rapid review recommendations
A set of independent recommendations to the Scottish Government on how to improve care for people with co-occurring mental health and substance use conditions. It forms part of a wider rapid review of co-occurring substance use and mental health concerns in Scotland.
The Scottish Government should ensure that each area has an agreed protocol in relation to the operational interfaces between mental health services and substance use services. Further, this protocol should be owned and monitored by a responsible individual at a senior management level, with clear oversight of both service areas.
The Scottish Government should work with local boards and Integrated Joint Boards to improve data collection on care for people with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. This should include key indicators, such as the number of rejected referrals for people with co-occurring mental health and substance use conditions by either mental health services or substance use services.
The Scottish Government should ensure that Health Boards, Health and Social Care Partnerships, Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and all practitioners are considering their work, in relation to co-occurring disorders, within the framework of the four quadrants model. This was shown in Closing the Gaps (2007) and is replicated in our literature review (Page 8). This should be part of the locally produced protocol.
The Scottish Government should ensure an annual population needs assessment in relation to substance use treatment capacity which will in turn help with the treatment of mental health problems. We know that certain forms of substance use treatment improve the mental health of those with alcohol and other drug use disorders. The Scottish Government should ensure these needs assessments are happening and informing service provision at a local level.
The Scottish Government should commission a specific rapid review for alcohol treatment services given its health implications for Scotland and evidence that treatment in Scotland has been diminishing despite high levels of alcohol use disorders.
The Scottish Government should ensure all mental health and substance use staff are trained on how best to assess and manage co-occurring mental health conditions and substance use disorders in a trauma-informed approach. This training should also be open to other professional groups.
The Scottish Government should ensure that further research is carried out to explore several troubling findings which we could not address in this rapid review. These include the finding by Public Health Scotland of a significant increase in anxiety and depressive episodes prior to a drug-related death between 2008 and 2018, and the increase in Drug-Related Admissions to General Hospitals.
On a larger scale, a replication of the Co-Morbidity of Substance Misuse and Mental Illness Collaborative (COSMIC) Study in a Scottish city would be particularly relevant.
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