New position will have positive impact

Sound prevention plans and a collaborative approach can have a positive impact on drug and alcohol treatment in Wellington Shire.

This is the firm belief of the newly appointed drug and alcohol nurse with Central Gippsland Health Service, Teresa Coleman.

Teresa’s position has been funded by the Victorian Government as part of a new state-wide initiative to deal with drug and alcohol issues.

The program delivered at the hospital aims to provide all patients with access to screening for alcohol and drug use, access to brief interventions and an option of direct referral to Health and Alcohol & Drug Treatment Services. This intervention will provide structured advice and personalised feedback to patients regarding their level of health risk due to AOD consumption and support them to the uptake of community services.

The aim is to co-develop and agree pathways and protocols of an integrated alcohol and drug assessment, referral and treatment pathway across hospital and community services ensuring the pathway always reflects local need.

An experienced nurse, who has worked extensively in the sector in both the United Kingdom and New Zealand, Teresa believes this approach by hospital and community health and therapeutic services to address drug and alcohol issues will have long term benefits.

“Education and understanding, a collaborative approach and working with individuals, families and carers, are the key to getting good outcomes,” Teresa said. “My objective is to work with the hospital staff, link with other service providers and build on the already sound existing relationships within the community so delivery of services is seamless.”

Similar positions have been set up in Bairnsdale, the Latrobe Valley and Bendigo. All three nurses plan to work together to build a solid network both in Gippsland and throughout the state.

Teresa said sound collaborative work with community, families and carers, delivering targeted interventions and relapse prevention plans, would bring great benefits.

She will work closely with Sale Hospital staff to “optimise patient experiences”. This includes ensuring that everyone is screened for drug and alcohol when they are admitted to hospital.

Teresa’s career is extensive and varied. A registered psychiatric and disability nurse, she initially worked in a children’s hospice in the UK where the young patients had high level and complex physiological needs and intellectual impairment.

She took on various roles in the mental health sector within the Norfolk area before being appointed project manager in the youth correctional system. The program provided an alternative to custody for prolific young offenders. Central to this program was working in partnership with young people to identify and build on their aspiration, working with their families and getting support from their community.

“The program turned a lot of lives around,” Teresa said. “Young people felt valued, regained self-esteem and got back into education and training.”

A further role working as a criminal justice liaison nurse saw her working with adults who were likely to go to prison because of drug related problems. She assessed and worked therapeutically and clinically with people who were assessed as eligible for an alternative to custody program therapy which incorporated pharmacotherapy and therapeutic intervention.

“Working with people who are substance dependent is quite a humbling experience and one I will never forget,”  said. “People can have a mind-set about drug addiction. But it often reveals the person affected has experienced a really bad trauma in their lives, especially in childhood, or is struggling to cope with an unidentified underlying mental health issue, or simply they got in with the wrong crowd in their teenage years or at another vulnerable time in their life.

“It was an amazing experience for me to see how given the right help and simply being listened to and validated, helped people turn around.”

After more work in the youth justice sector, where she was seconded as a health coordinator to address the UK Government-identified health related issues of Young Offenders , Teresa went to New Zealand. She worked with young people and adults suffering mental health issues as well as drug and alcohol problems. Her role was to bring services together to address issues for people in this group.

Marriage brought her to Australia. Last May, she married a long-time friend who had settled here. “I love Australia and I love Australian people,” she said. “I particularly love working in Sale.”

According to , countries experience different specific drug issues. “Drugs change but people don’t,” she said. “Everybody is an individual.

“There are different dangers and risks in all drugs. Addiction and the underlying cause that drives it and how we can help people to identify and address it, is the central issue.

“But the health system here is second to none and communities really care.

“Bridging the gap between hospital and community works. The key is providing people and families with support, understanding and providing access to interventions tailored to their individual needs which is sustainable within a community setting.”

Teresa said there were many excellent existing services available in the community. “The aim is to coordinate all those services in one basket and provide a seamless service between hospital and community services.”

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