A new pilot program will deliver healthcare directly to south-west Victorians experiencing homelessness.
WRAD Health, with funding from WestVic Primary Health Network, is embarking on a pilot program for six months to bring medical services to those who may be experiencing homelessness or sleeping rough. The team of a nurse, alcohol and other drug clinician and doctor will work together with existing support services to the homeless to provide access to healthcare.
The WRAD Health Project Connect aims to engage people into comprehensive medical care through provision of a holistic approach providing the opportunity for assessment of a person’s physical health needs and if required further assessment and management of drug and alcohol and/or mental health related conditions.
WRAD Health operations manager Mark Powell said every night, thousands of people sleep rough on Australian streets because they don’t have access to safe, secure housing. “They are some of our most vulnerable people who can have complex health needs that deserve expert care outside the structures of the current office-based medical services,” Mr Powell said.
It is estimated that 50 people in every 10,000 are experiencing homelessness in Australia.
Mr Powell said not all people sleeping rough use drugs and alcohol. “However, we know from research that those people experiencing homelessness are at greater risk for developing substance use problems as they strive to cope with the stress and challenges of homelessness.
“WRAD Health hopes to deliver a sustainable model that can continue to meet the health needs of those vulnerable members of our community.”
For more information ring 55 645 777 or to make an appointment.
The new name reflects the broad range of medical services being offered and recognises that substance use is a health issue.
The change, made after nearly 40 years with the original title, was adopted unanimously at the WRAD Heath annual general meeting.
CEO Geoff Soma said the original name didn’t cover the range of health services being offered to the community.
“Substance misuse is a complex issue that is often difficult for people to understand,” Mr Soma said. “It is not a justice issue or simply a drug issue, it is a health issue that creates a range of challenges for people in recovery. Just like other serious health problems it requires timely, directed and multiple layers of care.
“WRAD has worked hard over the years to address the broad range of problems facing people in recovery and remains committed to promoting substance misuse as a health issue.”
WRAD Health includes the Handbury Medical Suites bulk billing general practice with six doctors, along with a psychologist, psychiatrist and specialist substance misuse and mental health clinicians.
“We have and are taking a broader, holistic approach to treating clients and families with substance use issues and providing services for a range of health presentations,” Mr Soma said. “Health issues affect everyone in the community, and as a health issue so does substance misuse.”
Mr Soma said he believed the community had come to understand what WRAD does. “For years we’ve worked hard at promoting the WRAD Centre,” he said. “People understand that the acronym relates to substance misuse; now we’re focusing more on promoting the broad range of services that we offer.
“We’ve matured over the years and educated the community around substance issues and what we do, along with promoting the successes of people in recovery. We are confident that people will recognise that WRAD Health stands for quality treatment for everybody that can benefit from what we offer.”
Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre Inc
Invites you to attend the
39TH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
Date: 15th December, 2022
Venue: WRAD Centre
172 Merri Street, Warrnambool
Phone: 03 55645777
by 9th December, 2022
Ordinary Annual General Business
The AGM will be followed by nibbles
WRAD has increased its services and called for an end to stigma as the economic and social costs of addiction spirals.
A new report launched this week at Parliament House in Canberra estimated addiction in Australia to cost $80 billion a year.
The report titled Understanding the Cost of Addiction in Australia by KPMG and Rethink Addiction highlights the significant costs associated with alcohol, tobacco, other drugs and gambling, including on workplace and household productivity, harmful consumption and healthcare.
KPMG and Rethink Addiction called for urgent investment in prevention, early intervention, and harm reduction to enable “Australians living with addiction to live healthier, happier and more productive lives”.
WRAD operations manager Mark Powell said the cost of addiction went well beyond economics with its impact on people and families.
“It’s time to make a change,” he said. “As a community we need to reduce stigma and promote help-seeking. Too many people wait too long to access help. We need to remove barriers to treatment and create a shift in thinking that getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness.”
WRAD is making services more readily available with an after-hours clinic introduced as another option to increase accessibility to support and treatment for substance use and other health issues.
“The economic cost of addiction is over $80 billion and the biggest harms come from legal substances such as alcohol, cigarettes with other drugs and gambling much less so.” Mr Powell said.
WRAD wants to empower people to access help early so they are in control as opposed to being crisis driven through homelessness, family breakdown, serious health issues or court mandates.
“Some of the barriers come from lack of knowledge of the services available but also from misinformation and myths about what getting help might look like for people,” Mr Powell said.
“Too many people normalise use of the legal substances and it’s not until it gets quite problematic that they seek help. We want the community to learn more about addiction and substance use to make better informed choices.”
The Understanding the Cost of Addiction in Australia report also determined the intangible costs of addiction, such as reduced quality of life or the value placed on lost years of life.
It also found that stigma is a barrier. “Roughly half a million Australians can’t access the help they need due to a lack of available treatment or fear of judgement,” it states.
“Stigma causes many to wait years, even decades, before seeking help for their struggles with alcohol, other drugs, or gambling. Tackling stigma will reduce help-seeking and treatment delays and have many other positive effects.
“We need to make responding to addiction a national priority, tackle stigma to promote help seeking, and reprioritise investment to support a public health approach to addiction-related harms.
For drug and alcohol issues, call Directline 1800 888236, or WRAD 55 645777
WRAD fears people in south-west Victoria could be missing out on a potentially life-saving medication, Naloxone,
Naloxone is available as an intranasal device (Nyxoid), and can completely reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
However, WRAD operations manager Mark Powell said it seemed not enough people know about the medication.
“If you take opioids for any reason or experiment with drugs, or know someone that does, you can access Naloxone via a prescription from you doctor,” Mr Powell said. “At WRAD we offer a training session on how to use Naloxone effectively as a first aid intervention for overdose through our peer overdose prevention program,” he added.
Naloxone reverses the effects of opioids and provides opportunities for overdoses to be treated immediately. It can be administered while waiting for an ambulance. “You can do no harm by administering Nyxoid but you can potentially save a life if the cause is an opioid overdose,” Mr Powell said.
Both within Australia and internationally, the rising use of opioids is a cause of concern. All opioids—including codeine—can be addictive and their use can result in dependence, accidental overdose, hospitalisation or death. Legal or pharmaceutical opioids (including codeine and oxycodone) are responsible for far more deaths and poisoning hospitalisations than illegal opioids (such as heroin). Every day in Australia, nearly 150 hospitalisations and 14 emergency department presentations involve opioid harm, and three people die from drug-induced deaths involving opioid use.
“These are preventable deaths,” Mr Powell said. “The federal government has recognised this and made available access to Naloxone that reverses the effects of overdose.”
Contact WRAD on 55645777 or via website email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
WRAD will hold workshops for interested family members individuals or community members.
Two events in Portland and Warrnambool this month will help people to better understand addiction.
The free Understanding Addiction community support and education events for families and friends will be held at the Warrnambool Library & Learning Centre 8 Kepler St, Warrnambool Tuesday October 25 from 5:30—8:30pm and Portland Library 32 Bentinck St, Portland Wednesday October 26 from 1-4pm.
Keynote speakers from Turning Point & Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC) will cover key issues about drugs and gambling, the effects on the brain and body, the relationship between drug use and mental health, strategies for dealing with the substance user and access to support and resources.
A joint initiative between Turning Point and SHARC, has delivered over 250 workshops state-wide since the program began in late 2015.
Turning Point director Professor Dan Lubman said the program is an excellent opportunity for major state-wide services to work together to reduce the harms associated with substance use and addictive behaviours.
“This program aims to provide an insight into what substance use and addictive gambling is, how it affects people and how to support family members into treatment,” Professor Lubman said. “We will also provide people with practical approaches in caring for themselves and other family members.”
The program is equally suitable for both interested community members and families who are directly impacted by a loved one’s substance use or gambling issues.
The centre piece will be “3 sides of the coin” a well renowned lived experience story telling event.
Attendance is free but registration is essential. To register for this program, hosted by Portland District Health Service, go to: www.breakthroughforfamilies.com/attend or call the Family Drug and Gambling Helpline on 1300 660 068.
Several local services will be showcased, including WRAD, Bethany, Brophy Family and Youth Services, Southwest Health Care and Portland District Health AOD.
Family Drug and Gambling Help, a program of SHARC, offers a confidential telephone service providing support to family members and friends in need. The helpline is staffed by trained volunteers who know what it’s like to love someone with substance misuse. Phone 1300 660 068 24 hours, 7 days a week.
For drug and alcohol issues, call Directline 1800 888236, or WRAD 55 645777
By Kayleearne Clyde
My name is Kayleearne I was addicted to methamphetamines for five years. This October I will be three years clean. This is my story.
To share my story, I must tell you about the lowest places my addiction took me to. Some of these things I am not proud of but I will share them with you so you can understand the depth and how addiction took over my life and slowly took control until the person I once was almost ceased to exist.
I have always been a strong independent woman. Before addiction I worked two jobs that I loved, attended school and TAFE and had great relationships. I was happy with the direction my life was heading until one day I met someone. Looking back now I can see the red flags and early warning signs of this relationship. He manipulated me in a way that I believed that I didn’t have him, nobody would want me.
This was not a healthy relationship; there was a substantial amount of abuse physically and mentally, until one day he went too far that he broke my body, mind, soul and even my bones.
I’m not going to say this was the only significant event in my life that contributed to my using, but it is the event that pushed me into the darkness that I would soon feel like I was drowning in.
Soon my everyday life would be consumed with addiction. My day would consist of using, scoring, and selling. I stopped showing up for work and slowly lost everyone and everything I held close to my heart. But at this point I would not even notice or care because the only thought I had was using. I was in full addiction, and I felt I would never escape because the darkness had consumed me.
Over the five years of my addiction, I was in and out of jail until one day I met someone. This person would become the father of our child. When I found out I was pregnant It was like I could see the light in darkness, this child would be my escape. In a perfect world I would stop using and we would live happily ever after, but sadly this was not the case. Earlier I spoke of being a strong independent woman but during this part of my life, I was no longer that person and had handed my mind, body and soul over to my disease. Everyday my love for this child would grow as she grew inside me, but I would continue to use throughout my pregnancy and this perfect little girl would be ripped from my arms and put into Child Protection care.
You would think that this would be the light switch moment that I needed to get clean so our family could be whole again. But once again this is not what happened. I would struggle to go an hour without using because I felt that my pain was too great to face clean because losing my child felt like losing a part of myself.
I would continue to use and see my daughter three times a week for an hour until she turned three months old. This is the day that things would change because at 9.30am my house would be raided, and I would be imprisoned for five months. I had been in jail previously, but this time was different; the pain of being away from her was the motivation I needed to get myself clean. But I couldn’t just do this for her, I had to want this for me, and I did. I wanted my family to be whole.
On the day I was released, I already had five months clean time and I would reach out for support from services offered in Warrnambool that would teach me the tools and strategies I needed to implement in my life to ensure that I could maintain sobriety. I would receive help for my previous trauma and support for my mental health.
So where am I now? In July my daughter has been in mine and my partner’s (her Dad) care for two years; I hold a job; I am a mum; I have completed my Certificate IV in Child Youth and Family Intervention; am currently studying my Diploma in Community Services; and reconciled past friendships and formed new friendships. I have been a guest speaker at different places to spread my message of hope to all individuals affected by this disease. These are just a small example of my achievements I have been able to succeed in since finding recovery. My recovery didn’t come easy, but it came to me at the time when I was ready. Recovery is not something that happens overnight, it is a lifelong journey and something I will continue to work on. But it has been worth it.
If you are suffering from this disease my message to you, is you are not alone. If you are thinking about starting your recovery journey, then you have already taken the first step. If you have a friend or family member suffering just remind them that they are loved and no matter what happens they will never be alone. Simple things like this can spread a message of hope.
Kayleearne’s entry was named Paul Jennings special award winner in the 2022 short story competition.
By Mark Gavin
Slowly the blurriness between sleep and waking flows through my body as I hear a small commotion at my bedroom door. I inhale a conscious breath and instinctively know that the wind is gentle and offshore. I hear a quite “dad” from the bedroom door. “Yes” I reply. “Come on we are doing a dawney” was the response. Two of my boys had got up early to surf with me to celebrate my 50th birthday. I said “awesome, I will be down in a minute”. I gave my partner a kiss on her forehead and said “see you in a few hours” I felt her gently squeeze my hand and heard a quiet “happy birthday handsome, have fun and be safe”.
Standing on the beach with the first rays of light, I said to the boys “off you go, I need to fix my leg rope, I’ll catch up”. Truthfully, I just wanted a quiet minute to watch them paddle out, implanting proud and joyful memories into my mind. Standing there watching the reflections off the swell lines start too form, it created a reflection of my own life. My life was not always filled with such beautiful moments like this day had gifted me, in fact 10 years ago my story was very different.
I was living my life like it was an episode of Jackass. My existence and actions were executed by the mantra of `if you are living on the edge, then you are taking up too much room`. I had sipped, sculled, smoked, snorted and swallowed all kinds of mind-altering substances in the fruitless pursuit of happiness, acceptance, approval and self-worth. I would wear my excessive use of drugs and alcohol like a badge of pride, thinking I was some sort of champion. Excuses as to why it was normal or even deserved behaviour would always flow from my mouth. All the time I was failing to see what wreckage and absolute carnage I was leaving in my wake of self-destruction. My path to a premature death lay before me and I had my foot firmly on the accelerator.
There are many steps on the road to recovery but the one step on my path which to this day is prominent in my mind is the bluestone step leading into a dimly lit hall. I remember pausing at this step and just looking at it, knowing this had to be a turning point. I crossed over this step alone and completely broken. Seeing MS take my mother’s life over the first 11 years of my life had not broken me. Two failed marriages and several attempts on my own life had not broken me. Court appearances had not broken me and even barely seeing my own sons had not broken me. Finally, I just had no more bullshit sorry’s left in me. It’s the sorry that so many people who misuse substances know all too well. It’s the genuine regret for your actions the night before. It’s the `I won’t do it again’. It’s the well-intentioned promises to be a better person. All of which ultimately fail as you end up in another filthy public toilet using or having another secret longneck. Back down the rabbit hole for another trip to sorry town.
I don’t have a specific date to refer to, but I do know that my recovery started the day I crossed that bluestone step and stopped using alcohol, drugs and cigarettes all on that day. It was a few days later that I saw the world come into high definition for me. All the colours of the world literally got brighter and like respawning on a computer game I got the chance to start over on this level of life. My recovery has not always been roses and fairy floss. Life still throws me some shitty situations but there is now a lack of drama and conflict. Funny how love has filled the void that was within me. I now feel it from those around me and radiating out from within. There is a beautiful peace and calmness within the bosom of recovery.
First light of the day used to highlight all the sordid little actions hidden in the darkness from the night before. Now standing here on the beach basking in the first light of the day watching two of my sons paddling out, it lights up endless possibilities, joy, gratitude and contentment. The golden hour glows upon me like a beacon to the future.
WRAD is using International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31 to remember without stigma those who have died or become permanently injured due to overdose and to highlight effective harm reduction strategies.
To mark the day, WRAD is shining a light on the stigma and demonisation of drug addiction by lighting up its Merri Street building in purple lights from August 29 to September 2.
The colour purple sends a message that every person’s life is valuable and that stigmatising people who use drugs needs to stop.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare recorded 1,842 drug-induced deaths in 2020, with more than two-thirds considered accidental and just over 20 per cent intentional.
WRAD assertive youth outreach worker Harriet Rose said deaths from overdoses have outnumbered the national road toll since 2014 yet the issue is rarely discussed.
“These are preventable and unnecessary deaths,” Ms Rose said.
Ms Rose said drug dependence was a complex health and social issue, not a sign of personal or moral failure. “The shame and stigma associated with drug use pushes people to the margins of society, creates barriers to seeking help, and means health issues go untreated,” she said.
She added that many overdoses were connected to prescribed medications, not illicit substances.
“A common misconception is that overdoses only occur with illicit substances like heroin. All drugs can cause an overdose, including prescription and pharmaceutical medications. Often, it is a combination of drugs that results in an overdose. For instance, many substances have a sedative or depressant effect on the body where they slow the vital body activities including breathing and the heart rate. These substances are often prescribed or taken to alleviate pain, assist with sleep, or used recreationally like alcohol. However, when taken in excessive amounts or in combination, they can depress normal functions until breathing and the heart eventually stop, resulting in an overdose and potential death.”
International Overdose Awareness Day is also an opportunity to promote the lifesaving medication Naloxone. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioids and provides opportunities for opioid overdoses to be treated immediately. Naloxone is now available as an intranasal device (Nyxoid) and is easy and safe for people to use at home.
People can access free Naloxone and information about how to use it from a community pharmacist or WRAD. WRAD will also provide education sessions for interested community members.
People can get more information about drugs, overdose and overdose death prevention such as the use of Nyxoid by contacting WRAD on 5564 5777. WRAD and Handbury Medical Suites now provides after hours support on Mondays, Tuesday and Thursday from 6pm-8:30pm, with appointments available with GPs and drug and alcohol clinicians.
For drug and alcohol issues, call Directline 1800 888236, or WRAD 55 645777
Emergency call 000
For medical issues call South West Healthcare 55 631666
For mental health issues call SWH emergency dep't 55 631 666 or 1800 808 284
For drug and alcohol issues call Directline 1800 888 236
For Lifeline call 13 11 14
Or click on the links below for help.