Family Drug Help
Family Drug Help (FDH) provides a specialist service to support family members and friends who are concerned about a loved one’s alcohol and other drug use. Family Drug Help aims to strengthen client’s physical and mental health and their ability to cope with a very difficult situation.
Family Drug Help (FDH) is a service designed specifically to address the support and information needs of parents, other family members and significant others of someone with problematic alcohol or other drug use. People with personal experience of the effects of alcohol or other drug use within their family or friendship group are involved at all levels of the service.
Family Drug Help’s mission is to provide peer support and access to reliable information about alcohol and other drugs as well as available treatment options. FDH aims to reduce the alcohol and drug related harm experienced by families and friends of a person misusing these substances and to strengthen families in their support of that person.
Specifically, Family Drug Help aims to:
- Recognise that support and information can provide ongoing help and hope to concerned families and friends.
- Empower families and friends to reduce alcohol and drug-related harm to themselves and the person using alcohol or other drugs through a process of mutual support and self-help.
- Reduce the isolation and stigma often associated with a family members misuse of alcohol or other drugs by bringing families in contact with others who share these experiences.
- Provide non-judgemental, empathic support, as well as accurate information on alcohol and other drugs and current available treatment options.
Family Drug Help delivers a variety of services, including:
- Family Drug Helpline – a state-wide 24 hour helpline available for immediate and ongoing support
- Action for Recovery Course (ARC) – a six week family education course to learn skills and strategies in coping with a loved one’s addiction
- Support Groups – available across Victoria where family and friends can gain support, educational resources and share their experiences with others
- Family Counselling – provides a supportive environment to help families develop their relationship by building upon their skills and strengths
- Siblings Support – interactive online support and information.
Interview of the story of how Family Drug Help came to be
Family Drug Help (FDH) was established in the year 2000 with the financial support of the Department of Human Services. Drawing together the skills, passion, and expertise of three existing organisations – Parents for Drug Information and Support (PDIS), the Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC), and Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre – FDH was the innovation of three passionate and committed individuals; Brenda Irwin, Gordon Storey, and Margaret Hamilton. The FDH program is a flagship for the SHARC model of care and continues to represent the efficacy of the self-help paradigm for families and individuals affected by drug use.
After the death of her daughter to a heroin overdose in 1996 Brenda Irwin went searching for information about drug use and its effects. Inspired by a radio piece in which she heard Dr. Alex Wodak, the then head of Drug and Alcohol Services at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney interviewed, Brenda Irwin became passionate about fighting stigma, and resourcing and supporting parents of drug users. Brenda Irwin made contact with Dr.Wodak who in turn connected her with other families engaged in law-reform and advocacy. Through these networks Brenda Irwin received an invitation to speak, alongside two other parents, about her experience at a public forum in the Melbourne Town Hall, under the auspices of then Lord Mayor, Cr. Ivan Deveson, which led to her joining drug and alcohol working groups with both the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Yarra City Council. Around the same time Brenda Irwin established Parents for Drug Information and Support, holding the first group meeting in 1998 at North Yarra Community Health Centre, with local GP Dr.David Jacka as keynote speaker and supporter. Parents for Drug Information and Support grew rapidly and by the end of their first year of operation, PDIS facilitated a forum attended by one hundred and fifty people. Professor Margaret Hamilton, fellow co-founder of FDH and then director of Turning Point Drug and Alcohol Services, was an invited speaker at this forum.
After more than thirty years as a social worker Margaret Hamilton was acutely aware of the inadequate engagement with families in the drug and alcohol service system. Attempts to integrate family focus into the Turning Point model, which had not borne fruit in part due to financial constraints, meant Margaret Hamilton was keen to support alternate initiatives that put family participation on the treatment agenda. Margaret Hamilton’s clinical experience had repeatedly shown that family engagement was a crucial component in effective treatment, and that mutual support groups could be highly beneficial for people dealing with drug and alcohol issues. To this end, Margaret Hamilton began to support Brenda Irwin’s organisation through the provision of group facilitator training for PDIS members, which was co-delivered by Brenda Irwin and staff from Turning Point.
Brenda Irwin’s advocacy efforts had increased by this time and, through a series of meetings with DHS, she began lobbying for the establishment of a dedicated peer support phone line for families affected by the drug use of a loved one. Around this time Brenda Irwin came into contact with Gordon Storey – the third founding member of FDH – who was also consulting on one of the DHS working groups. Gordon Storey was then CEO of SHARC, the organisation that would later become the lead agency in developing and managing FDH. Michelle Keenan, the Turning Point Staff member who had been assisting at the PDIS meetings and a former colleague of Gordon Storey’s, formally introduced him and Brenda Irwin shortly afterwards. Alongside a host of other invited professionals, Gordon Storey attended and spoke at several PDIS meetings during this time. With the emergence of evidence on the efficacy of family inclusive practice in the late 1990s, the gap in service provision for families affected by the drug use of a loved one was identified and prioritised. The Department of Human services allocated funds for the development of a targeted family service and put the job out to tender. Brenda Irwin, Margaret Hamilton, and Gordon Storey saw this as an opportunity to formalise and develop a specific service for families within the context of the existing service system. Based on the provision of accurate information, the philosophy of self-help and mutual support that underpinned the flourishing SHARC organisation, and a commitment to meeting callers where they were in their respective processes, the three formed a consortium that tendered for the service delivery contract, under the fiscal and philosophical direction of SHARC.
The three organisations provided the perfect mix of professional and experiential expertise, coupled with the infrastructure and passion required to establish the service being called for. In late 2000 the consortium was named as the preferred provider and Family Drug Help was established as an integrated program area of the SHARC service. Drawing on the technical and organisational support of Turning Point, the inspiration, energy and passion of family members, and the conceptual narrative of self-help underpinning SHARC, the PDIS group established by Brenda Irwin developed into a state-wide Victorian service consisting of a resource centre/knowledge dissemination service, a telephone helpline, and facilitated mutual support groups for families and friends of people with drug problems.
Family Drug Help began operating as an integrated program of the SHARC service, co-located at the Glenhuntly Road site. Staffed by a mix of peer volunteers and paid staff, and supported by a Steering Committee of people with both professional and experiential expertise, FDH operations were managed by Gordon Storey with the support of Brenda Irwin and others. Importantly, the Steering Committee played a pivotal role in the development of the ethos, spirit and role modelling that has come to define FDH. Margaret Hamilton facilitated technical support from Turning Point, specifically in the provision of after hours care via Direct Line for the FDH helpline, and acted as a consultant on organisational issues. The new program was promoted widely amongst Victorian alcohol and drug agencies, with referrals coming from inside the existing service system and via word of mouth. Whilst there was a significant amount of verbal support initially, the referrals from existing agencies were less than had been anticipated. Despite this fact the initiative stabilised and became a program in its own right on the strength of the founding members’ passions and the strong structural foundations, under the auspices of SHARC. Operating from a base of self-help philosophy coupled with a commitment to provide accurate information the service flourished as trained family volunteers on the helpline made the shift from helpee to helper. Volunteers began to experience their own empowerment whilst concurrently modelling this to helpline callers. Family Drug Help continues to operate as a vital service and source of empowerment for families and friends of loved ones affected by drugs and alcohol.
Interview conduced by Suzi Hayes for SHARC with Margaret Hamilton, Brenda Irwin and Gordon Storey
A guide for families with young teenagers was released in 2008, as a timely initiative to address young people's attitude to the drinking culture. It also aims to educate parents to be aware of the damaging impact of alcohol on the developing brain.
Free to families, please call 1300 660 068 during business hours for your free copy.
Available for Organisations/Agencies as a resource, booklet including postage
Education, Information & Understanding A community ICE forum for families, friends, professionals and the wider community who are concerned about a loved one’s alcohol and other drug use. Guest Speakers: Clandestine Drug Lab Squad, Victoria Police Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team, Eastern Health Family Drug Help at SHARC Personal stories from people in recovery. When: Wednesday 24 June, 2015 Time: 6.30PM for a 7PM start, finishing 9PM Where: Mulgrave Community Centre, 355 Wellington Road, Mulgrave…Read more
Do you want to be involved? Have you… The experience of using alcohol, other drugs and/or gambling? Attended services in the Melbourne region? Would you like to… Be part of a consumer and carer advisory council? Be reimbursed financially for your experience? Want to know more… Click here for details: Turning Point Consumer Council FAQ Or Ring Naomi on 8413 8704 or email NaomiC@turningpoint.org.au Applications Close June 12th, 2015Read more
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Join Speaker Bureau
The Association of Participating Service User (APSU) at SHARC is inviting expressions of interest from people with a lived experience of alcohol and/or other drug (AOD) misuse and family members affected by a loved one’s AOD misuse to become members of our Speaker Bureau.
APSU’s Speaker Bureau members are people who are willing to speak publicly at forums, meetings, presentations, conferences and other community or corporate events. Speaker Bureau members nominate themselves for this role and they choose what topics they are prepared to speak about.
Speaker Bureau members are remunerated as participants (as well as trained and supported by APSU) and are empowered in their endeavor to help raise awareness, overcome stigma and shame, and educate people about addiction, recovery and hope.
The vast majority of evaluations over the years demonstrate that Speakers Bureau members have an immediate, positive, and often transformative effect, on their audience members.
If you would like to become a Speaker Bureau member, please fill out the form below. We will be in contact with you soon and you will be invited to attend an orientation and training session run by APSU at SHARC.
Family Drug Help
Address: 140 Grange Road, Carnegie, 3163
Phone: 1300 660 068
Action for Recovery Course (ARC)
Do you feel like you are going around in circles? Does the same thing keep happening over and over? The chances are you have a loved one with an addiction. The ARC program will suit you.
Family Drug Help’s Action for Recovery Course (ARC) is run over six weeks (two hours per week) and is for those impacted by a loved one’s drug and /or alcohol use. It’s designed to educate family and friends in how to best cope with a family member’s addiction.
Topics such as boundaries, the stages of change, guilt, worry and communication are all discussed. Strategies for reducing conflict and improving communication are taught. This course makes an enormous difference in our relationship with our loved ones with substance addiction.
“I have learned and felt so much better about myself since doing your course; it’s given me confidence to work on my relationships.”
Next available courses 2015
Bookings essential, please contact 9573 1761
All course run from 6pm – 7.45pm (unless stated otherwise)
Dandenong: 13th July – 17th August
Coburg: 9th July – 13th August
Heidelberg: 8th July – 12th August
Carnegie: 18th August – 22nd Sept
1 person: $60
2 people: $100
3 people: $150
Need an account?
Where can you go to be amongst people who understand, learn strategies to cope and gain support?
The strain of living with someone else’s problem behaviour is more than most people can cope with alone. In a support group members are with others who have travelled a similar journey. Attending groups regularly can reduce feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, helplessness and shame by gaining support, information and ongoing education.
“Being unfamiliar with the process of networking and sourcing contacts (having never had experience with drug and mental health issues) it is overwhelming to say the least. I have gained enormous strength, support and knowledge from the support group meetings during the last 3 years, which has assisted me greatly.”
Family Drug Help Support Groups:
Please phone the helpline for exact dates and locations
1300 660 068
- Bacchus Marsh:
1st & 3rd Thursday of the month, 7:30 – 9:30 pm
1st & 3rd Wednesday of the month, 7:00—9:00 pm
2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month, 5:45—7:45 pm
2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month, 6-7.45pm
1st Wednesday of the month, 6-7.45pm
1st & 3rd Wednesday of the month, 5:15-7:15pm
1st & 3rd Wednesday of the month, 1 – 3pm
2nd & 4th Wednesday of the month, 7 – 9pm
- Supper Club – Carnegie: (For family members who have lost a loved one as a result of substance use)
1st Tuesday of the month
2nd & 4th Tuesday of the month, 7 – 9pm
1st Monday of the month (except April & November – 2nd Monday), 7— 9pm
3rd Thursday of the month 6 – 8pm
2nd & 4th Wednesday of the month, 7 – 9pm
2nd Thursday beginning July 9th 6 – 8pm
Families who are experiencing the affects of substance abuse can have difficulties in their relationships and feel isolated, stress and anxious. Sometimes the behaviour of the substance user becomes the focus of attention and other needs get pushed aside.
Family counselling can provide a supportive environment to help families change their relationship to the problems they are facing as well as building upon the skills and strengths the family possesses.
Family Drug Helpline
Phone 1300 660 068
24-hours, 7 days a week
Sometimes people may feel they need to talk to someone who knows what it’s like to love someone who’s misusing drugs or alcohol. Family Drug Helpline offers a confidential telephone service which provides support to family members in need. Our helpline is staffed by trained volunteers (9am to 5pm Monday – Friday), ordinary people who are just like you: mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, partners, sons, daughters and friends. After hours service is staffed by professional counsellors.
“Calling the Helpline was a huge step for me. Being heard and understood without being judged or shamed was so calming. My journey in helping myself deal with the problems in my family started that day.”
“Ringing the helpline grounds me”
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