Evaluating need and implementing harm reduction services in an abstinence based organisation

Stream: Rapid Papers 1
Date: Thursday, 31 March 2016
Time: 3.30 pm – 4.45 pm


Abstinence from Alcohol and Drugs has long been the philosophy underpinning the Therapeutic Community (TC) model of care. However, infectious disease and overdose prevention must be addressed whilst a client is in treatment reducing risk when relapse occurs. This paper will discuss the moral dilemma that harm reduction may pose for an abstinence based service exploring the challenges and benefits? The community as method approach focuses on living and social skills; part of lifestyle change is addressing risk behaviors. Implementing harm reduction (HR) into WHOS services has had challenges both on a local level and internationally amongst abstinent based bodies. How harm reduction today has become a major component of the WHOS seven programs in NSW and QLD will be discussed highlighting education groups covering BBV, STI’s, overdose prevention/CPR, safe sex, infection control and the inclusion of Opioid Treatment Programs further enhancing services offered to clients. Building partnerships with both Government services and NGO’s is integral to ongoing effectiveness of the HR program and provide onsite services e.g. Liver and sexual health clinics. To ensure the HR program continues to be effective, evaluating need, appropriateness and satisfaction is essential. Anonymous questionnaires administered to new clients address specific risk taking behaviours these results continue to indicate medium to high prevalence risk taking amongst this client population. Findings from results outlined in this paper identify the need for a HR program to continue as a major component in this and other programs regardless of whether abstinence is an ultimate goal of treatment.


Carolyn Stubley (Presenter), WHOS (We Help Ourselves)
Carolyn is the Nurse Manager for the WHOS (We Help Ourselves) Therapeutic Community Organisation responsible for the Opioid Substitution Treatment dispensing services, WHOS Nursing Staff and coordination of the Harm Reduction Program across WHOS seven services. Carolyn has managed services both in public health and NGO with a focus on Opioid Treatment Programs (OTP) and is currently the Chair of the NSW and Australasian OTP Managers Groups and a committee member of the NSW NGO Practice Leadership Group.