Illawarra problem drinkers in detox trial

Aboriginal problem drinkers will be supervised to detoxify at home under a program being trialled in the Illawarra.

The outpatient program, developed by Illawarra Aboriginal Medical Services (IAMS) in collaboration with Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the University of Sydney, aims to close the gap in services available to indigenous Australians.

IAMS drug and alcohol services co-ordinator Leanne Lawrence said while outpatient detox programs existed within mainstream services, no formal service existed for Aboriginal drinkers, who often resisted inpatient programs.

"What we've found is that a lot of our clients won't go into a residential setting to detox for a range of reasons," she said.

"These include a lack of such services in the region, cultural barriers and stigmas, and some practical issues like childcare, transport and cost. Plus, some of the inpatient programs are in hospital or clinical settings and many of our clients don't feel comfortable in these."

Ms Lawrence said the new outpatient program was funded by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education and had received one of 10 2013 Good Practice Grants awarded to community organisations across Australia.

The Illawarra service, which is enrolling its first clients, has been tailored to the needs of Aboriginal Australians.

"We provide intensive support throughout the five-day program, where two workers will visit the client twice a day," she said.

"They will ensure that clients are not having any difficulties with the withdrawal and if they are, a doctor will be alerted.

"They also make sure that the clients are drinking a lot of water, eating the right kinds of food and taking enough vitamin B.

"Plus, they help clients with any social or emotional issues that may come up."

After the detox, clients were given ongoing support and referral to other services.

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