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18 August 2020
Words Lauren Martin
The Salvation Army has announced changes to its Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) services to allow more participants to recover within their own communities, strengthening connections with local Salvation Army expressions and increasing participants’ long-term wellbeing.
Lieutenant-Colonel Lyn Edge, Head of Mission, said the Salvos would increase its community-based AOD work over the next 18 months while reducing the number of beds in its larger residential centres. “As we all know, the recovery journey is different for everyone. By diversifying our services, we can support even more people in their long-term recovery.”
Lyn said The Salvation Army looked at a range of research before making the decision to embrace more community-based models of AOD care. “Evidence has shown us how effective treatment choice and community-based care are for long-term recovery.”
She also said the benefits of this model can be seen in the stories of countless people who have accessed Salvation Army community-based AOD services and shared their experiences of pursuing recovery within their own homes and suburbs while being fully supported by the Salvos.
Care based on individual needs
Tasmania’s Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Manager Penny Chugg explained that the residential recovery setting should mostly be used when other options aren’t working, or if the participant has identified it as the best treatment location for their individual needs.
“For most people, recovery is really important to do at home at their own pace, test their skills, try new things, make mistakes, have little lapses but come back and learn from that process,” she said.
The Salvos in Tasmania has always offered a model of community recovery. Participants work with a Salvation Army caseworker to outline their recovery goals and have a choice about what support options will best suit.
“We know that to provide the best level of care it needs to be flexible,” said Penny. “It needs to give people choice and it needs to be able to cater to the individual’s needs at the time.”
Navigating the Matrix
For Joshua Leed, The Salvation Army Tasmania’s ‘Matrix’ program of community recovery has been a game-changer. “This program saved my life,” he said. With ironclad determination, he stopped using methamphetamines twice but lapsed both times after about 90 days of abstinence. Homeless and suicidal due to the substance use and mental health issues, he said, “I realised in the end that willpower alone isn’t going to get me through ... I knew I needed professional help.”
He was referred to The Salvation Army and thrived in the Matrix day program. Working through his recovery within community also allowed him to join a gym and create a whole new set of friends. He also had time to work with Salvation Army Housing staff to process an application for supported housing.
Joshua completed the program but continues to attend to maintain social connection and to work on his recovery while looking for a job. He said the longevity of the program (the Matrix goes for up to a year) allowed him to work on his personality including having more empathy, being kinder to others and being more social. Living in a community allowed him to practise those skills in day-to-day interactions.
Joshua keeps in regular contact with his Salvos AOD caseworker and knows that at any point, if he’s struggling, he can increase the level of support provided to him, with residential recovery an option.
A focus on families
One of the big winners in the community-based AOD model is families. The Tasmania Salvation Army experience has shown that the majority of people in its Matrix intensive day-program are mothers or fathers who have care, work and other responsibilities that would make residential recovery impossible.
Debbie (not her real name) is a single mother of three children. She described her life as “a mess” when she first began working with the Salvos after leaving an abusive relationship, which resulted in her children being removed from her care.
“The [Salvation Army] Bridge Program offered me a day program that was flexible and meant that I could attend groups and meetings at times that suited me,” she said. “This meant I could continue to work with the parenting programs, child safety and my psychologist while still doing the program.”
With all levels of care on offer – part-time, full-time, residential and aftercare – the result is holistic support service. Being based in the community, the service is also able to offer programs for family members and loved ones who are supporting people experiencing issues with addiction.
“Having the family involved is so important,” said Penny. “We are only around for a short period of time, but the families are around forever.”
Many of The Salvation Army’s existing long-term residential recovery services have strong connections to nearby Salvo churches.
“Community-based treatment will provide clients with even more opportunities to engage with faith communities within their own neighbourhood,” Lyn said.
Kathryn Wright, the Army’s AOD National General Manager, said in many locations a Salvation Army community care recovery service will be located within a church building, which will further support connections.
Other places where community-based recovery programs could be run are at existing residential recovery centres and other suitable locations such as a local community centre or scout hall. “We just want to make it really accessible,” said Kathryn.
“The changes we are making to open up more places for community-based recovery within The Salvation Army will create opportunities for participants to develop a more organic, sustainable and longer-term relationship with the Salvos. We are excited to partner with churches as we develop more diverse ways that we can support people on their recovery journey.”