Multi-disciplinary treatment model for treating the underlying conditions of offending behaviour
Around 15 treatment and support services operate at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre.
Working as an integrated unit, Client Services provides clients of the centre's court and residents of the centre's jurisdiction, with therapeutic and practical assistance.
Services predominately address the psycho-social conditions that contribute to offending behaviour, such as drug and alcohol dependencies and complex mental health issues.
Client Services also work towards improving the quality of life for vulnerable communities by addressing barriers to mainstream life.
The team works in collaboration with the centre’s Magistrates’ Court, Community Correctional Services, legal representatives, police prosecutions, and Registrars.
Client Services comprises staff from independent services headquartered in Yarra.
Each agency works under the auspice of the Neighbourhood Justice Centre, and adheres to the principles of community justice, the guiding framework of the centre.
Client Services receives clients through court referrals (Magistrate and legal teams), Correctional Services, interactions with clients on the court floor, and people who self refer.
The majority of Client Services clients have matters before the court (80%), around half of whom are moderate to high-risk offenders, have high needs, and require long-term, multi-agency support.
For many, engaging with Client Services involves reconnecting with treatment or seeking new providers to address what are often long-standing needs.
Integrated case management
A referral to one member of the Client Service is a gateway to all services, and as most clients have multiple needs, agencies work in multi-disciplinary teams to manage clients together.
This model enables agencies to:
- reduce the number of meeting that clients need to attend
- develop and manage highly integrated treatment plans
- Coauthor court reports and other administrative duties
Along with operational efficiency, this model reduces the stress of a single worker having carriage of complex case files
Overall the model saves all participants time and work and speeds up processes.
- Client assessment and referrals are expedited quickly (court referrals to treatment occur almost immediately)
- Appointments are arranged and reminders put in place before clients leave the building.
- Initial appointments take place within 7 days.
- Reduces duplication of information
- Saves clients repeating their story multiple times.
Supporting Correctional Services
Clients ordered onto a Community Correctional disposition are managed by a unit of Community Correctional Services located at the centre.
By sentencing, clients are usually receiving treatment. As such, Corrections case managers:
- Understand the risks and needs of clients before they commence an order.
- Have the benefit of secondary consultation with clinicians and other professionals should the client need further support.
Co-locating multiple services
Clients Service agencies work on the same floor. This may not seem important, but space matters.
Working together enables otherwise geographically isolated agencies to share information and resources,and improve the administration of often complex case management.
It has established the NJC as an “information hub” for services and government agencies, which assists the centre to achieve its mandate of reducing crime rates, improving access to justice, improving trust in the justice system, and improving the quality of community life.
Benefits of integrated treatment services
- Reduces barriers to accessing community treatment services as Client Services act as entry point into their ‘home’ agency
- Increased engagement with treatment as services are based on site and respond quickly to a client’s needs.
- Increases access to treatment
- Increases person’s motivation to make positive changes
- Treatment can begin prior to a client attending court.
Snapshot of a day in CST
Between court appearances Clients Services team members:
- Liaise with other members of the team on potential referrals
- Engage clients in treatment and their justice matter by offering regular reminders, providing diaries, in some cases funding mobile phones.
- Conduct joint appointments with clients
- Regularly update the clients lawyers on progress, discuss treatment, and discuss the needs for upcoming court appearances
- Consult with corrections about clients who are likely to be placed on a community based order.
- Make external referrals and navigate the initial intake process for agencies with clients
- Prepare treatment reports as required for the court or lawyers- the reports are impartial and factually based, that highlights a client’s progress since their last court appearance in regards to their agreed upon goals. The report allows the court to understand the person and circumstances in their life that have perpetuated offending behaviour
Adopting the Client Services model
As there is no doubt about the effectiveness of therapeutic courts, the question may be: what model?
With a broad range of services, few if no time limits on support and early interventions, we believe our model gets it right.
 Ross, Stuart, Evaluating Neighbourhood justice: Measuring and attributing outcomes for a community justice program, Trends and Issues in crime and criminal justice, p4
 Ibid p5
 Ibid p5