An evaluation of the implementation of the Australian ATAPS Suicide Prevention Services

The Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Suicide Prevention initiative is an Australian Government-funded primary mental healthcare initiative providing free or low-cost, intensive psychological intervention for consumers at moderate risk of self-harm or suicide. Using a program logic approach, this paper outlines the findings of a multi-method evaluation aimed at identifying whether the initiative is being implemented as intended; preliminary outcomes of the initiative; and barriers to, and factors that facilitate, implementation.

Analysis of data from the national ATAPS minimum dataset, which contains consumer and session data for the initiative, was conducted to determine uptake and if consumers are experiencing a reduction in distress and suicidal ideation following treatment. Observational comparisons were also made with data from other ATAPS initiatives. Structured telephone interviews with 21 organisations implementing the initiative assessed views on implementation.

The Suicide Prevention Services are generally being implemented as stipulated in the Operational Guidelines. Good relationships with other mental health services and referring GPs was the most commonly cited facilitator of implementation. Barriers varied widely, although organisations with rural and remote catchments noted limited funding and access to professionals, and geographical spread as barriers to implementation. Pre- to post-outcome measure scores demonstrated significant reductions in clinical symptoms and suicidal ideation.

Referrer and consumer uptake of the ATAPS Suicide Prevention Services is high, as is acceptance from organisations involved in its implementation, largely because it fills a service gap for those at moderate risk of self-harm or suicide. With few exceptions, the initiative is being implemented as intended, although some barriers, particularly in rural and remote areas, place limitations on implementation.

Dr Angela Nicholas, Research Fellow, Centre for Mental Health, The University of Melbourne will discuss her research at the 15th International Mental Health Conference to be held at the QT Hotel, Surfers Paradise from Monday 25th to Tuesday 26th August 2014 click here.  Optional workshops will held on Wednesday the 27th of August.


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