Screening & Assessment

We have tools to support each interaction level as well as assessment tools, templates and best practice guidelines. Click on the titles below to access resources:


    Screening and/or assessment are usually the ‘first contact’ a young person and their family/whānau may have with services. It is often the most important and effective intervention practitioners will provide. 

    There are three levels of first interaction that can be utilised with young people depending on their presentation, the services they present too and the time and skills/knowledge available.


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    Screening: Substances And Choices Scale (SACS) and more

    Screening usually involves administering a brief questionnaire. The object of screening is to identify potential areas for further assessment. It is often the starting point of further work and should be a key part of an enhanced response for young people presenting with mental health and addiction issues.  

    Full Screening and Brief Intervention: The Substances and Choices Scale (SACS)

    The Substances and Choices Scale (SACS) was developed in New Zealand and validated for use with adolescents aged 13-20 years. 

    SACS records the number of times a substance has been used over the previous month and rates substance use related symptoms and harm. It is a short, freely available questionnaire which takes about 5 minutes to complete, and has high acceptability, validity and reliability.

    What is SACS?

    • A one-page self-report questionnaire you do with a young person. 
    • Designed and tested in kiwi youth 
    • Screens AOD use and related harms, problems and risks.
    • Engages young people to think and talk about their substance use.
    • Scores the young person's responses to let them and you know where they sit compared to other kiwi youth. 
    • Designed to aid in the provision of feedback, brief AOD advice and referring on when warranted.
    • Increases engagement in referral vs screening alone.

    Links to SACS resources follow:


    What is the SACS ABC approach?

    SACS has been adapted specifically for brevity and to align with the well-known ABC approach for smoking cessation and alcohol. Based on The SACS Brief Intervention above. The resources incorporate the Substances and Choices Scale (SACS), a youth AOD (alcohol and other drug) screening instrument developed and tested in New Zealand (Christie et al., 2007). SAC ABC is a resource for youth mental health and addiction workers, designed and promoted by the Werry Workforce Whāraurau (Christie, 2010).

    A: Ask – Administer SACS Screening, review and score 

    B: Brief Advice – Deliver Feedback and brief advice 

    C: Counselling – Referral for Counselling /Treatment 

    A simple and effective easy memory aid to screen youth for problematic AOD use and provide brief personally-relevant AOD interventions.

    As part of the SACS ABC an electronic version of the SACS (E-SACS) is available.


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    SACS ABC Video Guide




    This video is a demonstration of an AOD worker utilising the SACS Brief Intervention with a young person. This clip illustrates how to utilise the SACS Brief Intervention tool. It should be watched in conjunction with the SACS resources and information available here.



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    Targeted Screening

    Alcohol Use
    • Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT - Drinkcheck)
      The AUDIT screens for problematic alcohol consumption and consists of 10 items. It can be used to further evaluate young people with alcohol problem
    Smoking / Nicotine
    • Fagerstrom
      A widely used screening tool, it consists of 6 items measuring aspects of nicotine dependence and is useful in older adolescents.
    • EIGHT Screen Youth
      The Early Intervention Gambling Health Test-Youth (EIGHT Screen-Y) is an adapted version of an adult problem gambling screening test.


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    Assessment Tools

    Brief and/or Comprehensive Assessments may be carried out in different ways, depending on the setting and available resources. Assessment forms or formats which prompt clinicians conducting an assessment to obtain information under specific categories, can be useful in terms of providing a worker with reminders and ensuring no omissions. 

    When time and resources are limited, or even when they are not, we highly recommend Werry Workforce Whāraurau's HEEADSSS tool.

    The HEEADSS Assessment Tool

    For those working in the primary care and youth health settings, a good place to start with assessment is using the HEEADSSS (Home, Education, Eating, Activities, Drugs and alcohol, Suicide and depression, Sexuality and Safety) Assessment. The HEEADSSS Assessment is recommended as a simple but thorough framework around which a brief CEP assessment can be structured.

    HEEADSSS allows for early identification of mental health, alcohol and other drug (AOD) issues and other information to assist young people in their development. 


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    Assessment Record Templates

    When completing a comprehensive assessment there are a number of domains that need to be explored. It is helpful to have a structure to the assessment to ensure all information and areas are discussed.

    Below is two format examples of a Comprehensive Assessment and Management plan. Acknowldegement of Altered High, Auckland and Youth Specialty Services, Christchurch for adapted version of their Comprehensive assessment forms.

    For a further example of the outline of a Comprehensive Assessment and management plan, please refer to Te Ariari: Appendix 2, pg 156

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    Best Practice Guidance

    Matua Raḵi has developed the Mental Health and Addiction Screening and Assessment guideline to promote a standardised approach to screening and comprehensive assessment processes in primary and secondary mental health and addiction services.

    This resource helps promote a common understanding and operating language with regard to mental health and addiction screening and comprehensive assessment. 


    Matua Raḵi Guidelines: Preparing External Agencies Reports

    The guidelines also provide guidance on preparing reports for external agencies.


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