Odyssey House CEO urges WRAD to keep persisting

The CEO of Victoria’s largest residential rehabilitation program has urged WRAD to “keep persisting” with its efforts to build the Lookout residential rehab centre.

Speaking at the WRAD AGM on December 9, Odyssey House Victoria CEO Dr Stefan Guernert said residential rehab had clear benefits for people and communities.

“You need to keep persisting; that’s what’s got you here and is what will get you to open the doors,” Dr Guernert said.

Dr Guernert said Odyssey House had been through long and difficult battles to get planning approval and funding but it was worth the effort. He also urged WRAD to keep campaigning for rational and reasonable staffing ratios as part of the permit.

WRAD Director Geoff Soma said that unless staffing conditions imposed by VCAT are made the same as other residential rehab centres in Victoria, it would be impossible for the Lookout to proceed.

The extra 33 per cent staff loading proposed by VCAT would make the centre unviable,” Mr Soma said.

WRAD has appealed staffing conditions imposed by VCAT and the hearing will be in Melbourne on February 26, 2020.

Residential rehab centres have excellent outcomes for people, with about one-third recovering, a third better off and a third experiencing little change.

“Outcomes are better with periods of residential rehab and with peer support,” Dr Guernert said.

Dr Guernert said strict boundaries and behavioural expectations were enforced at Odyssey House’ residential rehab centres.

He said there had not been any acts of violence in the Odyssey residential centres. “We have to overcome community and political fears and myths; we don’t hear enough stories of hope,” he said.

“I’d rather live next to a rehab centre than a lot of other neighbours.”

He added that residents wanted to be there to make a change in their lives.

Alcohol and methamphetamines are the primary presenting drugs at Odyssey House.

WRAD’s plans for the Lookout centre are based on the successful Odyssey House model.

Dr Gruenert is a registered psychologist with more than 18 years of experience in the drug and alcohol sector as a clinician, researcher, and manager and is the immediate past-president of the Victorian Alcohol and other Drug Association (VAADA).

WRAD is continuing with its mission to make the Lookout residential rehabilitation centre a reality for local clients and families.