Uniting Vic.Tas’s Mother and Baby Residential Withdrawal Service has been recognised with an Excellence in Women’s Health award at the 2018 Victorian Healthcare Awards.
The service, a key strategic initiative of Uniting ReGen and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, fills a crucial and longstanding gap in the Victorian Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) system in making AOD treatment more accessible for women with babies and infants.
“In 2010, ReGen realised women with babies or young children faced particular barriers to accessing what is often the first stage of AOD treatment,” ReGen CEO Laurence Alvis said.
“ReGen saw the need for a dedicated ‘Mother and Baby’ residential withdrawal service, an idea which was in line with DHHS key policy directions.”
Before the service opened in Ivanhoe last October, women seeking AOD residential treatment in Victoria were unable to stay with their babies and infants while undergoing withdrawal.
Consequently, the idea of being separated from their children, or having to find alternative care stopped many women seeking help.
Often women feared losing their children as a result of making contact with services, or being stigmatised as a drug-user.
“By providing targeted, evidence-based treatment the program ensures mothers’ treatment is successful and they are able to be responsible parents, the program reduces risk to children,” Laurence said.
“This removes barriers that stop women seeking early treatment and delivers significant improvements in mothers’ wellbeing and children’s safety.
“It delivers longer-term engagement with health and support services for a highly vulnerable group.”
For many of these women, the service has meant the difference between being able to go home with their baby, and having the baby removed from their care.
The service is a key element in the current expansion of the Victorian AOD treatment system, the state’s response to the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry and the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
The Victorian Healthcare Awards recognise excellence, dedication and innovation in providing publicly funded healthcare for the Victorian community.