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New team STrIDeS into action

District dedicated to improving health of people with an intellectual disability.

Group of people cutting a cake together
SydneyConnect Image: STrIDeS launch

Sydney Local Health District has set up a new multidisciplinary team to enhance and extend its health care services for people with an intellectual disability.

The Specialised Team for Intellectual Disability Sydney, or STrIDeS, aims to better address the health needs of people with an intellectual disability and improve their access to services.

“I see it as a new era for the health of people with an intellectual disability,” Dr Jacqueline Small, a Senior Staff Specialist who’s the Clinical Lead for STrIDeS, said.

“The name STrIDeS speaks to what we want to achieve which is improvement in the health of people with an intellectual disability,” she said.

Evidence shows that people with an intellectual disability have a higher prevalence of physical and mental conditions, higher levels of morbidity and have lower life expectancies than the rest of the population.

“Our goal is to improve access to health care services so that the conditions people have can be diagnosed and effectively treated,” Dr Small said.

The team will help children, teens and adults with an intellectual disability who have complex health conditions and a current unresolved health issue that can’t be addressed through usual care.

They’ll conduct an assessment, develop a health care plan, coordinate referrals to specialists and support the person’s treating paediatrician or GP to implement and monitor the health care plan.

STrIDeS is one of three new teams established in the state’s Local Health Districts, as a result of a $4.7 million dollar annual State Government funding boost to expand specialised intellectual disability health services in New South Wales.

Collaboration with mainstream clinicians and GPs is key and STrIDeS has been formed in partnership with Western Sydney Local Health District and Central Eastern Sydney PHN.

“STrIDeS is an integrated model of care. We’ll be working very closely with health professionals in the District, in other Districts and, importantly, those in the primary health care sector.

“They are instrumental to improving the health outcomes of people with an intellectual disability,” Dr Small said.

Maree MacDermid, whose son Joseph, 13, has an intellectual disability as a result of a malignant brain tumour and its treatment, welcomed the establishment of STrIDeS.

“It represents such a milestone for disability services.

“Quality medical care for Joey really affects every aspect of his and our lives. We need agile, responsive and proactive care. And, when we heard the STrIDeS team had been funded we were delighted about what this meant for disability services.

“It’s another step forward. Building on existing, and extending, vital services and driving down the gap in life expectancy and health outcomes for people with intellectual disability,” Ms MacDermid, who sits on STrIDeS Steering Committee, said.

Dr Teresa Anderson AM said developing the program in partnership with patients, carers, and families was crucial.

“Our patients and their families are at the centre of everything we do. Co-design of our programs is essential. We can’t design them by ourselves. We need our patients and their families to participate in helping us to design services that truly meet their needs.

“This team shows you what can be achieved when everybody works together .We can create and build amazing services when we have that as our focus. And it reflects the needs and expectations of our community,” Dr Anderson said.

Clinical Nurse Consultant Maria Heaton, who has lived experience with intellectual disabilities, has joined the STrIDeS team.

“My passion is 100 per cent in this space. I have been working in the health sector for nearly 30 years. During that time, I’ve had the opportunity to witness firsthand the issues, the challenges and the discrimination that people with an intellectual disability face.

“We hope to help people who have fallen between the gaps and have found it challenging to find the support and other health services that they need,” she said.

One of those gaps, said the team’s Clinical Psychologist Laura Dunne, is in the diagnosing and treatment of mental health conditions.

“I hope to achieve better recognition of mental health conditions within people with an intellectual disability, as I know these can often be missed or overlooked,” Ms Dunne said.

Program Manager Lee Bratel, said the team will strive to deliver equal access to the health care system for people with an intellectual disability.

“What we’re trying to work towards is getting an even playing field so that everyone has the same experience and access to good health care. It should be the same for everyone,” she said.

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To view a highlights video of the launch event, please click here.