Screening & Assessment

Screening & Assessment

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 to and the time and skills/knowledge available. 

  1. Screening
  2. Brief Assessment
  3. Comprehensive Assessment

Once you've read the content on Screening, click on the other tab headings for Brief Assessment and Comprehensive Assessment.

Please click on the tab headings below to view resources:


There are a number of free screening tools available to access for addiction and mental health issues.
For more information please access Whāraurau CEP and Youth eLearning - screening and brief intervention module.



The 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 is 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:


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 Whāraurau (Christie, 2010).

A: Ask

Administer SACS Screening, review and score (Go to eSACS form)

B: Brief Advice 

Deliver Feedback and brief advice  (Go to AOD Youth Brief Cards)

C: Counselling 

Referral for Counselling /Treatment (Go to Service Providers Directory: )


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.


Email: [email protected]


SACS ABC Video Guide

SACS ABC Brief Intervention

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.


Alcohol Use

  Smoking / Nicotine


The HEEADSSS Assessment Tool

For those working in the primary care and youth health settings, a good place to start with Brief Assessment is using the HEEADSSS Assessment:
(Home, Education, Eating, Activities, Drugs and alcohol, Suicide and depression, Sexuality and Safety) 

Recommended as a simple but thorough framework which allows for early identification of mental health, alcohol and other drug (AOD) issues and other information to assist young people in their development. 

Te Whare Tapa Whā

This model can be used as an assessment format

Comprehensive Assessments may be carried out in different ways, depending on the setting and available resources. Assessment forms can prompt clinicians conducting an assessment to obtain information under specific categories, which can be useful in terms of providing a worker with reminders and ensuring no omissions
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 are two format examples of a Comprehensive Assessment and Management plan. We acknowledge Altered High, Auckland and Youth Specialty Services, Christchurch for the adapted version of their Comprehensive assessment forms.

Bridging the gap

Screening and assessment

Te Ariari o te Oranga