Category: News

WRAD Health highlights overdose risks


WRAD Health is launching a new campaign to stop accidental overdose deaths with concerns rising about the impacts of prescription drugs.

The WRAD Health building in Merri Street will turn purple on August 31 to recognise International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) and remember without stigma those who have died or become permanently injured due to overdose.

It will also highlight effective harm reduction strategies, including Naloxone.

AOD Clinician Anna Pike said WRAD Health was using IOAD to increase awareness of preventable death, including those due to prescription medication. 

“The Australian institute of Health and Welfare records prescription opioids as the most common drug class present in drug-induced deaths over the past decade,” Ms Pike said.

However, Ms Pike said many of these deaths could have been avoided by using Naloxone that became available with no prescription needed from July 1, 2022.

“Naloxone is for anyone who may experience, or witness, an opioid overdose or adverse reaction,” Ms Pike said. “The person will still need emergency help but Naloxone can give emergency services more time to get to the person. Naloxone is a safe and effective medication that now comes in a nasal spray.”

Naloxone is available from WRAD Health and pharmacies but many don’t realise it’s life-saving potential.

“Most people don’t know about Naloxone,” Ms Pike said. “We pass on the information to people who attend WRAD Health with opioid use problems, but it isn’t well known in the community.”

“The biggest overdose numbers in Australia are from prescription opiates. Many people don’t realise how easy it is to overdose on prescription medication so it is important to have access to Naloxone.”

WRAD Health also provides Naloxone education sessions for interested community members. 

People who may benefit from Naloxone or harm reduction or know someone who may benefit from the medication can reach out to WRAD Health on 55645777 or at 172 Merri Street, Warrnambool.

Pride in Your Health Conference to address challenges


A conference in Warrnambool on June 21 is designed to uplift, educate and advocate for a healthier future for LGBTIQA+ communities.

The Pride In Your Health: LGBTIQA+ Diversity and Inclusion Conference will be held at the Deakin Warrnambool Campus to celebrate diversity and address the unique health challenges faced by the rainbow communities.

It will feature a series of workshops, panel session and presenters to offer attendees guidance to improve their access to the health system.

WRAD Health, in partnership with local organisations, is delivering the conference to highlight issues of access to healthcare for members of the LGBTIQA+ communities, present current research around the physical, psychological and substance use issues that impact the LGBTIQA+ communities, to increase practitioner knowledge of and connect LGBTIQA+ inclusive groups/services in the area and encourage action to reduce barriers for LGBTIQA+ communities.

WRAD Health operations manager Mark Powell said both members and allies of the vibrant LGBTIQA+ communities were invited to join an empowering and inclusive event for health professionals from noon on June 21. People can book tickets for the Pride in Your Health conference at

The Pride in Your Health Conference Committee is committed to providing a safe and supportive space where individuals and agencies can gather to explore critical health topics affecting the LGBTIQA+ communities.

Mr Powell said it would feature an engaging line-up of local and renowned experts, healthcare professionals and community leaders to delve into the issues.

“Let’s work together to tackle the challenges on health issues for the LGBTIQA+ communities,” he said.

Sessions will cover lived and living experiences in navigating the health system, specific issues for the youth of south-west Victoria, mental health impacts, becoming Rainbow Tick accredited and facing the issues of discrimination in healthcare and much more.

“Through our workshops and panel session, we hope to create active participation and open dialogue, and we want engaging and thought-provoking discussion and interaction,” Mr Powell said. “The range of presenters will offer a wealth of information and offer attendees opportunities for questions and guidance to improve the health system. Hopefully they will walk away with increased knowledge but more importantly connections with like-minded people and services.

“We hope this will be a transformative event that will impact lives and drive positive change and that together we can pave the way to a healthier and more inclusive future for all.”

The event is being organised partnership with Leadership Great South Coast, Deakin University, Brophy Youth & Family Services, Wellways, Meli, South West Healthcare, Western Victoria Primary Health Network, South West TAFE, and Warrnambool, Moyne, Glenelg, Southern Grampians and Corangamite local government.



WRAD Health’s longest serving CEO Geoff Soma will retire at the end of June, ending a 23-year career with the organisation.

Mr Soma, who turns 70 next month, has overseen WRAD Health’s growth from 10 to 38 staff plus seven contractors delivering a much wider range of health services across the region.

He has been a staunch advocate for developing local health services and changing community attitudes to support people with substance misuse issues.

“It has been a wonderful career working with great people providing services to our important client group,” Mr Soma said.

“There have been many achievements along the way and I am very proud of where WRAD Health is today and what we stand for.”

WRAD Health operations manager Mark Powell will be acting CEO from July 1. “WRAD Health is in good hands with skilled staff and a very supportive and dedicated committee of management,” Mr Soma said.

WRAD Health committee of management chairperson Helen Taylor paid tribute to Mr Soma, describing him as the driving force behind the organisation’s commitment to improving health outcomes for the region.

“Geoff came with fresh ideas and a great deal of experience in managing drug and alcohol-related issues and he has been terrific in his leadership role over the past 23 years,” Ms Taylor said.

“He has an uncanny ability to manage finances and he was able to support WRAD Health to develop many new programs to support people in our community. Geoff was able to attract a variety of skilled and capable staff and juggle all kinds of different roles very successfully to ensure WRAD Health has moved forward.”

Mr Soma says he is most proud of developing WRAD’s position in the community, its broad range of services and its ability to influence community perceptions about substance use.

“There is now greater acceptance of substance misuse as a health issue and that has been incredibly important,” he said. “The community has embraced that and attitudes have improved for the better.”

Mr Soma said the development of integrated wrap-around services, including having clinical, medical, psychiatric, dual diagnosis and social workers based at the same centre, had been beneficial for the local community.

In recent years, key improvements have included the development of outreach services for clients with substance misuse issues, the growth in medical and allied health services, including more GPs, psychiatrists, consultant psychologists, developing wall murals, documenting recovery stories, recruiting Paul Jennings and Archie Roach as patrons, and the introduction of an after-hours service.

“I think it’s great that we have a bulk billing medical practice providing accessible health care for clients,” he said.

He says the time is right to retire. “I have been doing this for a long time and have been a manager since 1985 in Melbourne, New Zealand and now Warrnambool.

“It’s time to be doing other things, such as walking, gardening, reading, music, spending time with family and hopefully some travel.”

Working with people battling substance misuse issues can be challenging and stressful, but Mr Soma has always focused on the positives.

“Regularly I hear something positive about what clients have achieved by using one of our services and we make a difference in our community,” he said.

“I think we contribute to the social fabric of the community in that we provide essential support so that people can affect change.”

Mr Soma started as WRAD director on August 2, 2000 but his career in the field stems back to 1984.

Mr Powell, who has been operations manager for three years, will be acting CEO for 12 months. “It is a significant time of change for the agency after a period of significant growth so I aim to consolidate on what WRAD Health has achieved and continue to advocate for a full suite of services to serve the needs of the community.”



The Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre (WRAD) will now be known as WRAD Health.

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.”

WRAD AGM on December 15


Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre Inc

Invites you to attend the


Date:   15th December, 2022

Venue: WRAD Centre

172 Merri Street, Warrnambool

Time:    5.30pm


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 missing out on life-saving medication


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 for more information.

WRAD will hold workshops for interested family members individuals or community members.

Events to help people understand addiction


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: 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

Strength In Recovery


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.


Need After Hours Help?

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.