Salvation Army to partner with university for vital research

The Salvation Army will partner with New Zealand’s University of Otago to conduct a 4-5 year research on alcohol and drug abuse in Samoa. 

Alcohol and other drug clinicians, Natalie and Aukusotino Senio, told the Sunday Samoan that the research will not only lead to an improvement in services of the Salvation Army but have other benefits.

“We’re going to be able to have very good accurate data available for Samoa, to help us identify where the need might be and what particular work we need to do in the future,” Natalie said.

Last year, the Salvation Army applied for support from the Partnership Aid Development Fund New Zealand and was successful in getting funding, to run the alcohol and drug treatment program.

The Salvation Army regional leader, Lieutenant Colonel Rod, said the funding application was to do an evaluation of the success of the program. 

“So part of that funding application was to evaluate the success of the program, so that we can be comfortable that the service we’re providing is making a difference in our lives of the people, aiga, the village and the wider society of Samoa."

“And also this may improve the quality of our services and hence the contract with MFAT to use University of Otago, whom we also have a partnership with in New Zealand,” he said.

The organization expects to evaluate the success of their program – which is said to be successful but evidence is insufficient – to enable the collating of quantifiable, qualitative and substantial data. The data collected will be valuable for the public knowledge, Government and other agencies to look at. 

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The research facilitators Dr. Jules Gross and Dr. Tess Patterson said they will mostly be looking at the changes from when they go into the programs, to strategies and the reduction of alcohol use and all the negative effects it has, amongst other things.  

“And making sure they don’t go back to that. We’re also thinking that everything that goes along with binge drinking is also going to be reduced."

“That they don’t get into criminal trouble, family problems and things like that should go down. But we’re also thinking of what should go up is that they’re actually returning to what we call pro social activities,” said Dr. Tess.

Lt Colonel Lynette Hutson, who is the Addictions Services NZ national director, emphasized that they are to take something out of someone’s life; they have to make sure there is something to fill up that void.

 “So yes we’re looking at measuring what is going down but also what’s going up,” added Dr. Tess.

Dr Jules Gross said the partnership between University of Otago and Salvation Army is solid, and this is not the first time they have done a research evaluation on the church’s drugs and alcohol program.

“There is a much broader context to coming here so we’ve spent three days sitting around a table, really trying to figure out how we would do it culturally appropriately and it’s just really exciting. Because the Salvation Army has essentially put their hearts where the need is in Samoa, and we feel as though we’re in the fore front of conducting this evaluation, also trying to build in things that might be useful for the future not just for the organization but for the people of Samoa,” said Dr. Tess.

In addition to this, the organization is looking into conducting community outreach programs in the villages and schools to lift the knowledge of the public about the negative effects of alcohol and drug use.

“Mind you a lot of people don’t have the information about the harmful consequences of alcohol and drug use because at the moment they only know the good things which are party and happy, so when people are coming to the program, they’re hearing information for the first time,” said Natalie.

Salvation Army Alcohol and Drug Programme is a free of charge treatment programme that has an open-door policy and has seen up to 136 clients since commencing in August 2018.

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