The SATU operating model: substance abuse counselling and casework services in a hospital environment



SATU represents unique collaboration between the public and third sectors.The model helps patients to seek substance abuse treatment or other services after hospitalisation and to take better care of themselves. The idea is that hospital stays are a good time to reach patients and motivate them to change.

The model supports and develops coordination of different services in a variety of ways, and as a result contributes to customers’ recovery and strengthens their agency.


The activity takes place in inpatient wards and Helsinki City Emergency Hospitals: Haartman Hospital & Malmi Hospital. There is close coordination with social and health care professionals so as to improve the service offering and the interlinking of services. Activities have also been organised at other local hospitals according to needs and demand.

The approach used is one of outreach, actively searching out and finding the customer, so the emphasis is on cooperation with the treating department. The patients have ended up in hospital for a variety of reasons, for example due to infection, intoxication, a fall, impaired general health, delirium or for other reasons.

The SATU model also benefits from the input of experience experts. Experience experts are an important resource, because their very presence gives customers confidence. They can also share their own experiences and provide customers with an inspiring example and peer support. And for health care employees it is important to see that it is possible to rehabilitate from substance abuse problems. Experience experts can also help hospital staff to better understand the nature of substance abuse problems as an illness and the related problems.

The model also coaches and trains hospital staff in working with persons with substance abuse and mental health problems. The aim of the training is to enhance the capacity of hospital staff in dealing with substance abuse patients. Training for hospital staff within the SATU model also aims to influence negative attitudes towards substance abuse patients.


Through the SATU operating model it has been possible to reach and provide services to patients who otherwise would have either disappeared without trace or possibly returned to hospital time and again with new ailments. The model has made it possible to help people who would not otherwise have sought out other services and to put a stop to prolonged cycles in hospital that are expensive for society by supporting customers to take better care of themselves.

The model lowers the threshold for requesting and getting help at a point in time when the customer may be more prepared to receive it. The model has been especially beneficial to those customers who do not have any relations to help them or existing contacts with the service system. The increased ability and understanding of hospital staff has also directly affected the quality of the care received by substance abusers.


SATU complements services that are statutory. Municipalities are not responsible for providing the service itself, but because among other things the SATU model guides customers towards appropriate use of services for which municipalities are responsible, the whole public sector benefits. Collaboration between the public sector and the third sector has proved to be a suitable and effective method for enhancing the wellbeing of customers with substance abuse and mental health problems.


Presentation files

EP532_Miia Piho.pdf10.19 MBDownload


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