More must seek addiction help: Salvation Army

Fewer than five per cent of people seeking addiction treatment from the Salvation Army bring themselves in, the charity's leader, Lieutenant Colonel Rod Carey, says while urging more people to seek help. 

The 18-month-old service, which works with the courts to get people who have committed crimes under the influence of alcohol and drugs into treatment programmes, has had 413 people graduate through its treatment programmes so far.

But very few of those – about 20 – have come to the service of their own accord, or without being first charged with a crime and compelled by a Judge, Mr. Carey said. 

The Salvation Army's regional leader said he would like to see more self-referrals, or people who come with the guidance of their family, church or village council. 

The Salvation Army has been conducting awareness fono (meetings) in villages to teach people about their addiction programme, and also services provided by the Goshen Mental Health Services Trust so that families know resources are available 

“What we are hoping is that instead of people getting in trouble with the law before they seek help they realise someone in their family has an alcohol problem and they can refer them, which is way better," Mr. Carey said. 

Samoa’s Drug and Alcohol Court has successfully been diverting people from the prospect of long prison sentences by sending them to the addiction programme. 

“Most of them have been in trouble with the law through alcohol and drug abuse or misuse; they get referred to us and get a suspended sentence [instead],” Mr Carey said.

“If they complete the programme then they go back to court and mostly get a significantly reduced sentence. Many of them, because of the programme, have avoided going to jail, and many of them really give testimony that their lives have changed.”

Most of the clients the programme works with are not chronically addicted to a substance but feel unable to use alcohol in a safe way, Mr. Carey said:

“Here people have alcohol and then they abuse it and get themselves in trouble because they don’t know how to either abstain or use it in moderation.

“If it’s available, they will drink to excess and then get drunk and beat someone up, or steal and find themselves on the wrong side of the law.”

This is a different situation to the organisation's New Zealand clients, who are typically dependent on Class A drugs and face not only the physical challenges of withdrawal but with the mental aspects of addiction, too, such as depression or suicidal thoughts. 

For now, Samoan people are presenting to the programme before they have developed chronic problems. 

“If they don’t get that help they could move on to more severe alcohol and drug problems,” Mr. Carey said.

“One of the beauties of the programme is that it is a turning point for many of the people who come to us.

“Instead of going down a pathway of issues, they can get an education around it, they can get help and get connected back to God, to their church and to their family.”

The addiction services programme will grow in 2020, to help people with longer-term issues and will create a new, longer eight-week, 16 session programme. 

They will also be rolling out a programme to train social workers who specialises in addiction with the approval of the Samoa Qualifications Authority.

The training programme will accredit participants to work as specialist addiction and mental health workers and will be delivered by the Salvation Army’s clinicians: Natalie and Aukusitino (Tino) Senio.

“It’s pretty exciting for Samoa,” Mr. Carey said. 

Participants will work alongside practicing clinicians and complete assignments while learning about the theory behind addiction.

“We’re just fortunate we have two highly qualified drug and alcohol clinicians and mental health clinicians in Tino and Natalie who will be supervising the training programmes," he said. 

The church has also been bringing nicotine replacement gum and lozenges from New Zealand to establish a smoking cessation programme. 

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