Can you tell us about your main area of research and the projects you have been involved with?

My research area focuses on improving our understanding of, and responses to, mental and substance use disorders in complex populations, and facilitating the translation of research into practice through the development of evidence-based resources.

These projects all have key roles in generating knowledge to improve our understanding of mental and substance use disorders; disseminating that knowledge to the general public and to the clinicians helping people with these issues; and developing resources to translate the evidence and facilitate uptake into clinical and care practice.

Although I am involved in and collaborate on a range of different projects, two important projects that I have been leading for many years that mean a great deal to me are the Australian Treatment Outcome Study (ATOS) and the National Clinical Guidelines on co-occurring conditions.

ATOS is a study examining heroin dependence among 615 people originally recruited in 2001-02. I have coordinated the 11- and 18-20-year follow-ups of this study, where we reconnect with our study participants.  This has provided vital evidence regarding the long-term unmet treatment needs of an incredibly vulnerable population, at a critical time where many countries are in the grip of a heroin epidemic.

While new research findings are important, they need to make their way to clinicians to have impact on the people who need them. To bridge this divide, in collaboration with an expert panel of clinicians, researchers, consumers, and carers, I have led the development of two editions of National Clinical Guidelines funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. The National Clinical Guidelines focus on the management and treatment of co-occurring alcohol and other drug and mental health conditions, and accompanying training programs.

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