Mental Health Services Conference awards MST a Gold Achievement
Police in Western Australia described 2013’s 53-percent drop in serious juvenile crime as “extraordinary.” One explanation given for the decline is the expanded use of behavior-management programs. One hundred and sixty of the 297 offenders being handled by youth crime intervention officers were assigned to a program. These 160 youths accounted for 1,098 offenses costing taxpayers $2.5 million. Since being placed in interventions, the number of crimes committed by them dropped to 471.
"Besides the cost-benefit, addressing the underlying issues of these young people has now been shown to reduce reoffending,” said Western Australia acting police inspector Mark Fleskens said.
MST gets recognized for proven results
Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is one such behavior-management program. It is a home- and community-based approach for families with juvenile offenders exhibiting severe behavioral disorders. The intervention teaches parents and caregivers parenting and problem-solving skills to manage their children’s antisocial behavior, while improving communication within and between all aspects of the youth’s life (family, community, peers and school). MST works to keep adolescents at home and in school instead of getting placed in facilities or situations that have been shown to increase the severity of problems, including violence and substance abuse.
This intensive intervention lasts no longer than four to five months. Clinicians visit families in their homes, often after normal business hours. Comprehensive research findings indicate all family members benefit, and most parents/caregivers are able to maintain the improvements in the young person’s behavior long after the intervention has finished.
It’s little wonder that recently the Western Australia Child and Adolescent Health Service Multisystemic Therapy Program won a Gold Achievement award from the Mental Health Services Conference 2014.
The Mental Health Services Conference of Australia and New Zealand is the largest mental-health and addiction services conference in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. Its aim is to promote positive attitudes about mental health and mental illness, and to stimulate debate that challenges the boundaries of knowledge and ideas about mental health care.
The MST program also received an award for Crime and Violence Prevention, and the National Drug and Alcohol award for “Excellence in Prevention and Community Education.”
By turning to evidence-based MST, it’s likely that Western Australia will see positive results in combating youth crime in the coming years.