Social work in alcohol and other drug service navigation: supporting social complexity in dual diagnosis

Sally Thomas, Sophia Cotroneo, Daniel Pham, Rosemary Kalogeropoulos, Jonathan Tyler, Shalini Arunogiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: Many people with dual diagnosis present with social complexity that impedes service access. The role of social work support in such service navigation is poorly understood. This study aims to characterise client presentations to an Australian telephone-based social work alcohol and other drug (AOD) service navigation and linkage program, with consideration of presentation complexity compared between those clients who present with or without self-reported mental health (MH) concerns and a history of MH diagnoses, to identify differences in baseline characteristics, and linkage outcomes. Design/methodology/approach: A retrospective audit was conducted of routinely collected clinical information from a six-month period, selected to capture the social and health challenges experienced during the mid-pandemic period (mid-2021) in Victoria, Australia, during which a number of lockdowns resulted in a reliance on telephone-based services. The audit focused on client and presentation characteristics, and compared clients with and without a history of co-occurring MH and AOD concerns. Findings: It was found that three in four people accessing an Australian telephone-based AOD service navigation and linkage program presented with dual diagnosis. Individuals with dual diagnosis required more support from the service compared to those without a co-occurring MH disorder; but overall, were just as likely to achieve a successful linkage to services, when offered holistic, long-term social work support. Originality/value: This study focused on the role of social workers in this service navigation program in supporting individuals with complexity. It also highlights the challenges in operationalising social complexity factors alongside clinical MH and AOD diagnoses, and points to the need for further research to guide future service development for this vulnerable client group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-118
Number of pages12
JournalAdvances in Dual Diagnosis
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2023


  • Dual diagnosis
  • Service navigation
  • Social work
  • Substance use disorders
  • Telehealth
  • Treatment

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