An evaluation of Project ECHO video learning to improve mental health support to adults with intellectual disability in NSW

Dr David Thompson1

1Sydney Local Health District, Australia

Adults with intellectual disability are more likely to have mental health problems compared to other people. They can find it difficult to get good support. There may not be services, or those there are say they are not appropriate for people with intellectual disability. Often mental health professionals don’t know how to meet their needs.

Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) was developed by the University of Alberta, USA. It is a way of training healthcare professionals using Zoom. Each session has a presentation and case discussion. There is evidence Project ECHO can improve people’s health.

In 2020 Sydney Local Health District started three Project ECHO programs. This presentation will look at the program on mental health for adults with intellectual disability. There have now been four series, training over 180 people working with adults with intellectual disability. Most were professionals working in public mental health services and behaviour support practitioners.

The program was evaluated using pre and post questionnaires with a waitlisted control. Approval for the study was provided by Sydney Local Health District’s Human Research Ethics Committee.

The study found significant improvements in both participants’ knowledge and confidence to support the mental health needs of adults with intellectual disability.

The results confirm the potential of Project ECHO to specifically address the educational needs of professionals working with adults with intellectual disability. Further work is needed to find out if this leads to better mental health support.


David coordinates a tertiary mental health service for people with intellectual disability covering NSW.  Prior work in the UK and Australia has included teaching, lecturing, practice development and advocacy. His PhD focused on sexual issues for men with intellectual disability drawn from providing a sex education service for ten years.