Widening the road to recovery
Widening the road to recovery
24 July 2020
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.
The changes will also bring a consistent approach to recovery services across The Salvation Army in Australia.
Lieutenant-Colonel Lyn Edge, Head of Mission, said the Army 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 Salvation Army.
Care based on individual needs
When speaking about the changes from her home office in Hobart, Tasmania’s AOD Manager Penny Chugg wanted to tell a story about a man with a bad back. It seemed incongruous, given her role with The Salvation Army is in AOD, but she was adamant it was relevant: “When he goes to the doctor, he doesn’t just go straight to the hospital and have surgery. He starts with medication, and if that doesn’t work, they might increase the medication or change the medication or do physio. There’s a lot that is done before he makes a decision about intensive treatment at a hospital.”
She was, of course, talking about community-based AOD recovery as opposed to the residential model. Both are needed, but Penny said like a hospital, 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.
“Residential AOD is a setting, it’s not a treatment,” she said. “It’s just like going into hospital because, for some reason, nothing else is working. But 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.”
The Salvation Army 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. All of the day programs offer participants ongoing support, social activities and connection to Salvation Army personnel, corps programs and weekly recovery church held in a local corps.
“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, I have great willpower, but 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.
“[Recovery] in the community – it’s a more ‘real’ program,” he explained. “If you live in residential [recovery], it’s a bubble, it’s not a real representation of how you need to live. With the ‘Matrix’ [intensive day recovery program] you come and go, but ... you are accountable.”
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 Salvation Army 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 responsibilities that would make residential recovery impossible. Others are still in the workforce and are able to be flexible in their choice about what days they attend group therapy and other meetings.
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 Salvation Army 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 wholistic support service. Being based in the community, rather than in a residential setting, 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 corps. Lyn has moved to assure Salvationists that faith pathways in the recovery journey will remain a key part of the program in the move towards more community-based treatment options.
“In fact, community-based treatment will provide clients with even more opportunities to engage with faith communities within their own neighbourhood, like Sunday worship, Wednesday playgroup or volunteering,” 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 corps building, which will further support connections.
“Corps buildings are ideal,” she said. “It’s almost that they are designed to run day programs and non-residential [recovery] programs as most of them have a kitchen where you can make lunch for participants. There are spaces for meetings and there tends to be a few offices for private counselling sessions.”
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 Salvation Army. We are excited to partner with corps as we develop more diverse ways that we can support people on their recovery journey.”