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St Kilda



The Ross Trust supports a unique addiction hub in Melbourne

5 Oct 2023

The Ross Trust is proud to support First Step, a unique and free addiction, mental health, and legal services hub in Melbourne. 

Established in 2000 in St Kilda to address the critical need for low-cost, accessible treatment for people addicted to heroin, First Step now provides services to thousands of Victorians through its team of GPs, psychologists, nurse practitioners, lawyers, mental health nurses, care coordinators and counsellors.

First Step is the only Australian service offering this uniquely multi-disciplinary team all operating as one team from one site and is widely considered to be the only one in the world.

The Ross Trust is funding a new project, ‘Delivering a Whole Person, Whole System Model’. The project will contribute towards funding for four new positions that will build the capacity of First Step and ensure a best-in-class model of service. The roles include an Integration Officer and Research Lead, Practice Manager, Government Liaison Lead, and intake Worker and AOD Counsellor. Further funding is needed and is currently being sought by First Step.

The CEO of First Step, Patrick Lawrence, says that in 2022-23, the organisation provided nearly 14,000 consultations to 1689 clients across general medicine, addiction, mental health, legal and psychosocial supports.

“Most of our clients come from very difficult backgrounds, having experienced severe poverty, neglect, out-of-home care, childhood abuse and early school leaving,” Patrick says.  “Our people demonstrate extraordinary resilience in the face of significant trauma, and they typically need support with their mental health, substance use and other factors. 

“All clients who come to us want to address their addiction and its multiple repercussions. They cannot financially afford specialist health or legal care and we address these inequities by offering all services free of charge.”

The Ross Trust CEO Sarah Hardy says The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System held up First Step as the best practice example of multi-disciplinary teams, the highest form of integrated care. 

She said the work of First Step strongly aligned with The Ross Trust’s priority grants area of human rights, social injustice and increasing access to mental health and legal support post-COVID, for vulnerable persons.

“The pandemic exacerbated various social and economic inequalities, leaving many vulnerable populations in dire need of support, and this has been the case for the work of First Step,” Sarah said. 

Patrick said that philanthropic trusts, including The Ross Trust, had been instrumental in funding important projects for First Step in the past.  

“But this is the first time that trusts are taking the journey with us and enabling us to implement our fullest ambition for First Step and for Victoria,” he said. 

“Our unique multi-disciplinary team exists thanks to an equally unique mix of medical, Primary Health Network, philanthropic, the Victorian Government and other funding sources.

 “But that patchwork has holes.  The roles proposed for this pooled funding project complete the jigsaw puzzle that is our Whole Person, Whole System, allows us to evaluate that model over two years and position First Step to have the maximum positive impact on the lives of vulnerable Victorians." 


Read more about First Step.