Friday Feature

The Importance of Linkages

Today we're sharing a Q&A we had with Susan Morris, MSW, RSW about the importance of linkages and how integral they are to the START model. Susan will be presenting "Building Systems of Care Through the Linkage Agreement Process" at the 2017 SNTI alongside Bob Scholz, MS, LMHC, Sharon Cyrus-Savary, PhD(c), LMHC, and Cynthia Hill, LMSW.

Can you explain in a few words why it is so important to have a strategy when establishing linkages?
"Linkage agreements are no different than crisis plans and are similarly fundamental to the START model. Crisis plans establish a service path for one client. Linkages between START and other service providers are intended to establish consistent pathways, relationships and networks of support for a group of clients. They build bridges within and between providers and sectors to establish a reliable coordinated and collaborative approach to care. Like the crisis plan, linkages are intended to make the exceptional circumstance into a regular occurrence – where everyone knows who to call, the steps in the process, and the service to expect. Developing a crisis plan requires pre-planning, an understanding of the individual’s needs, and how to titrate the response to the level of need and the role of the various stakeholders before putting pen to paper. Similarly, for linkages, before approaching a potential partner and writing up an agreement, being clear on your purpose, what you can offer them, what they can offer you, where some of the sticky points may be and how they might be overcome will lead to a more successful engagement process and final outcome."

Would you share a tip about establishing positive relationships with community partners?
Build on shared experience. It’s always easier to approach a potential partner regarding a more formal arrangement if you have shared a case or two. Whether the experience was a good one or a not so good one, agencies are often open and willing to give and receive feedback. Not so different than when we engage with clients, the goal is to build on strengths, and look for shared opportunities to make improvements, by START-ing where you are each at.

How does your breakout session tie into START’s values?
- Capacity building starts with positive engagement (as noted above)
- Openness to learning and teaching includes establishing opportunities for learning between staff groups and assessing the benefits of the linkages to clients and families  
- Networking builds a shared capacity to enhance partnerships with service recipients and families  

Susan Morris

Susan MorrisSusan Morris, MSW, RSW, is a Registered Social Worker and acknowledged leader in clinical service development and implementation, partnership and network development, planning and policy in the field of dual diagnosis in Ontario. She is currently a START National Team Consultant and served as the facilitator of the first topic-focused practice group, START Networking & Linkages. Susan is well known as a team builder and a clear communicator. She has been recognized provincially and internationally for her vision and leadership and contribution to local, regional, provincial and national initiatives in the development of policy, quality services, interprofessional practice, partnerships and knowledge translation. 

2017 START National Training Institute



Driving Systemic Change

Mission: The UNH/IOD Center for START (Systemic, Therapeutic, Assessment, Resources, and Treatment) Services aims to improve the lives of persons with IDD and behavioral health needs and their families through fidelity to the START model with exemplary services and supports that emphasize local, person-centered, positive, multidisciplinary, cost-effective and evidence-informed practices.