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Therapy Provider Welcomes Broad Political Support

Therapy Provider Welcomes Broad Political Support

An agency which has been highlighted amid a political debate over youth justice policies says it welcomes the recognition for intensive, community-based support programmes for dealing with anti social adolescent behaviour.

National says it will expand the provision of Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST), a “wrap-around” support programme that targets all of the influences in youth behaviour -- including peer groups, parental relationships, substance abuse and school attendance. MST is currently delivered by a number of District Health Boards, government agencies and non-governmental projects.

MST New Zealand Ltd says the recent focus on early intervention by all of the political parties is an important recognition for a proven treatment modality.

MST New Zealand’s executive director, Kim Alexander, says there is now a broad acceptance of MST’s potential within the youth services sector and by youth and justice policy makers across the political spectrum.

“MST has become firmly established over the past three years and has considerable potential to make an even greater contribution to New Zealand’s youth justice objectives,” he says.

“It is pleasing to note the support coming from the political parties, both large and small, and from community agencies who are tracking the therapy’s initial outcomes.”

MST New Zealand’s clinical director, Joshua Leblang, says MST was recently evaluated by an influential policy group in the US and identified as one of only two effective programmes available for anti-social youth services.

“The National Institute of Health used a panel of experts from all of the specialisations that have an interest in adolescent behaviour, and their findings are an important endorsement for MST-based programmes here in New Zealand.”

The findings follow the release of preliminary data from an MST programme in Christchurch, Hutt Valley and the Waikato, which has found that 12 months after treatment:

On average, days spent out-of-home reduced from 38 days pre-treatment to 25 days (a 34% per cent reduction) The level of offending behaviour decreased and the average frequency of offences reduced from 2.44 at pre-treatment to 1.3 (a 46% reduction) The average severity of offending behaviour also reduced across the same time period from 3.56 to 1.9 (a 47% reduction) 97% of families participating in an MST programme would recommend it to others

About MST MST is an intensive family-based and community-based treatment model which addresses the underlying causes of youth offending – including family, school and peer group influences. The therapeutic interventions of MST typically aim to improve family relations, decrease the level of association with anti-social peers, and improve school or vocational performance. MST therapists work in teams and have small caseloads, typically around five families at a time, and are available 24 hours a day.

The MST treatment model was first developed by researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina following concern at the lack of scientifically validated, cost-effective treatment options and has proven to be effective in reducing anti-social behaviour among diverse populations of serious and chronic juvenile offenders. It is currently promoted by the United States Surgeon General and the Centre for the Study and Prevention of Youth Violence at the University of Colorado at Boulder as a model programme. MST is offered in 28 states in the United States and eight countries and helps approximately 10,000 families each year.

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