A new Charitable Outreach venture, launched by Mercy Hospital, Dunedin in 2012, is enabling a partnership with the Salvation Army to improve drug and alcohol rehabilitation in the city.

PARTNERS: (From left), Salvation Army Bridge Programme manager Glen McLennan, Mercy Hospital chief executive Richard Whitney, Salvation Army national addiction services manager Gerry Walker, and Mercy Hospital mission coordinator Janice McDrury at the launch of the new drug and alcohol treatment partnership between the Salvation Army and Mercy Hospital Dunedin. (Photo: Bruce Munro, The Star).

Details of the three-year, $300,000 programme which began in January were shared by Dr Janice McDrury, mission coordinator at Mercy Hospital. She describes the partnership with the Salvation Army as “a really good fit” with the ethos of the Sisters of Mercy.

“Drug and alcohol issues have a significant impact on individuals and families. The Sisters of Mercy, who founded Mercy Hospital, have been keen to see this partnership established, because it is such an effective way of responding to human needs.”

One specific aspect of the partnership is Pathways for Women, offering drug and alcohol treatment for women who have complex needs, which often include a background of trauma and abuse. The programme, which offers a chance for real change, has seen the number of women involved double in the past three years. Begun with the District Health Board, the initial programme is being expanded to accommodate the increased numbers of women who wish to participate.

A second specific focus is on Relapse Prevention. Funded by the Salvation Army, this initiative currently offers a weekly group meeting, providing continuing care and individual follow-up to support clients in their progress. Numbers in this group have trebled in three years, and the partnership with Mercy Hospital will enable the service to expand.

The third specific focus is on a Reintegration Facility, providing housing options under the supervision of the Salvation Army. A three-month period of consolidation, with appropriate support, enables individual clients to learn skills necessary for living independently in the community. The support from Mercy Hospital will ensure appropriate staffing levels for clients.

The partnership has been welcomed by Salvation Army Bridge Programme manager Glen McLennan, who says the funding from Mercy Hospital will provide support that “otherwise would not have been possible.”

Salvation Army staff currently work with more than 75 clients, across six drug and alcohol addiction treatment and after-care programmes. Staff resources are often stretched, and the new funding will ensure better outcomes, says Mr McLennan.

The contribution from Mercy Hospital’s Charitable Outreach will be $100,000 a year for the next three years, after which the partnership will be fully reviewed. The hospital’s chief executive, Richard Whitney, notes that Mercy Hospital is a not-for-profit organisation which returns its earnings to the community through a range of outreach programmes.

Mercy Hospital currently funds the University of Otago’s McAuley Chair in International Health, subsidized surgical services for people in need, and a variety of other charities in Dunedin. “We are constantly reviewing how our funds are used,” Mr Whitney says. “This new partnership is clearly aligned with our values.”

At a ceremony to launch the partnership last month, Salvation Army national addiction services manager, Captain Gerry Walker said it would be integral to achieving sustainable change in people’s lives.

“The people we care for will be better served because of this,” said Captain Walker. “I’m looking forward to a long and prosperous relationship between our two organizations.”