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New Youth Treatment Model Launched

Media Release
26 November 2001

New Youth Treatment Model Launched

Multi Systemic Therapy is a “Quantum Leap”

Two major non-governmental health providers have announced the introduction of a community based therapy which has achieved dramatic reductions in youth antisocial behaviour, including delinquent, violent and aggressive behaviours.

Richmond Fellowship New Zealand, a leading national provider of services to Government agencies, and the Youth Horizons Trust, an Auckland based provider, are underwriting the costs associated with the introduction of Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST). An MST specialist (Dr Naamith Heiblum) has been recruited from the United States and will offer training in MST to other public and NGO providers through a new Richmond Fellowship and Youth Horizons joint venture company, MST Services Ltd.

MST originated in the United States in the mid 1970s. It has been widely used within the US and internationally to reduce rates of youth offending and deviant behaviour.

“The introduction of MST into New Zealand is a quantum leap in the development of effective services for at-risk young people,” says Richmond Fellowship chief executive Dr Gerry Walmisley. “We hear constantly in the media that troubled young people are time bombs waiting to explode, or that they’re destined for a life of crime and incarceration.

“We applaud the Government’s current initiatives to make New Zealand the great place for young people that it used to be. We’ve introduced MST because it has been extensively validated, is empirically sound and should have a major impact on our youth mental health and offending statistics.”

MST is a relatively simple concept, targeting a wide range of difficulties known to contribute to problem behaviour in youth. This includes looking at youths’ functioning within the context of family, peers, school and the wider community, and addressing any identified difficulties in a formal and systematic way.

Dr Naamith Heiblum, who will head MST Services Ltd, says the therapy has been shown to be effective in treating antisocial adolescents, as well as many of the mental health and behaviour problems that are often experienced by these youth. Specifically MST has been demonstrated to reduce levels of family conflict, substance use, academic difficulties and involvement with delinquent peers.

“The research suggests that youth antisocial behaviour is determined by difficulties within the youth’s environment. MST serves to empower and support the youth’s family to develop the necessary skills and competencies to effectively manage the problems that they are experiencing.”

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Dr Walmisley says overseas studies have shown MST to be 75% effective, as measured by youth recidivism. In contrast, traditional treatments in New Zealand that have relied on taking young people out of their home environment, often into a secure facility, are typically only 12-15% effective.

MST Services Ltd was formally launched in Christchurch on November 30th to a gathering of health and social service agencies, associated youth services and Members of Parliament.

Ends

Further information: Dr Gerry Walmisley, Phone 03 365 3211, 0271 322 007
Dr Naamith Heiblum, Phone 03 365 3211


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