New partnership to address health inequality

Committed to partnership: Lives Lived Well CEO, Mitchell Giles and Bila Muuji CEO, Phil Naden.

Lives Lived Well has teamed up with Bila Muuji Aboriginal Corporation Health Service to build capacity and professional development among regional health service providers through the Lives Lived Well Drug and Alcohol Network (previously the Murdi Paaki Drug and Alcohol Network).

The partnership was announced in Dubbo on 28 February, with CEOs of both organisations – Mitchell Giles and Phil Naden – signing a commitment to partnership to address health inequality in local communities.

Bila Muuji works with its members, including a large number of medical services across the region, to support the provision of improved services, addressing not just physical needs, but social, emotional and cultural well-being as well, for individuals and communities.

As a specialist alcohol and drug support organisation, we’ll bring our expertise to western NSW, by working to build capacity and professional development among regional health service providers.

Through the partnership both organisations will be stronger in their shared commitments, and are looking forward to realising genuine improvements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Problem gambling – up to one in three AOD clients affected

We know problem gambling is a major social issue but how does it intersect with substance misuse?

Lives Lived Well’s Gerard Moloney has been presenting Screening for Problem Gambling workshops across Queensland for more than two years. He says for many people, there is intense stigma related to acknowledging a gambling problem.

“People are far more comfortable discussing an issue with drugs or alcohol than talking about a gambling habit,” he said.

Research suggests a strong link between alcohol and drug use, and problem gambling. Around 75 percent of problem gamblers also have had a problem with alcohol, while 38 percent of problem gamblers have had a problem with drugs. Between 20 and 30 percent of people receiving treatment for substance misuse also have a moderate or severe gambling addiction.

With funding from the Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors, we began delivering face-to-face and online workshops to raise awareness of this link among AOD support and other community and healthcare workers and how to use the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) as a screening tool.

Why screen for problem gambling?

Gerard says the anecdotal evidence he hears as he travels around the state lines up with the research, which shows that any level of gambling, even low levels, is leading to gambling-related harms, making early intervention more imperative.

Having AOD support workers screen their clients for problem gambling can help identify this problem before it becomes severe.

Studies by our research partner, The University of Queensland, along with PGSI results gathered within Lives Lived Well, indicate more than 40 per cent of people presenting with AOD issues are already experiencing gambling-related harm.

“The people at highest risk of developing a gambling problem are men aged between 18 and 34,” Gerard said. “Older Australians are also at risk – we see this issue in towns with a high concentration of retirees.”

Why has gambling been in the background?

Gerard says there are a number of contributing factors: clients experience high levels of shame and may not disclose a gambling problem, and they also may not believe their gambling is contributing to problems in their life; for clinicians, there are competing priorities which mean they may not think to ask about gambling or believe it could be a serious issue for someone in crisis.

“The shame and secrecy felt by the client interacts with the tendency of clinicians to minimise gambling as an issue, to keep problem gambling a background issue that often remains unexplored. By introducing the PGSI to clinicians, we’re aiming to provide a practical tool to facilitate conversations and reduce the stigma around gambling problems.”

Lives Lived Well’s Gambling Intervention team is available to present the free workshop in workplaces across Queensland. For enquiries please call 1300 727 957 to speak with the program coordinator, Richie Wilson or email [email protected]

To undertake the online training, simply register for free at

If you need support with the online workshop, email: [email protected]


Unique support service for families opens in Logan

Unveiling the plaque: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, the Hon Michael McCormack, with Federal Member for Forde, Bert van Manen (left) and the Hon Di Farmer, State Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence.

Queensland families will have access to a unique drug and alcohol support service starting in the new year, following the official launch of our Family Recovery Units at Logan House on 12 December.

The program makes it possible for parents to receive support, while their young children stay with them on site in the two and three-bedroom units.

Parents can access wrap-around support on site at Logan including specialist alcohol and drug counselling and information, group sessions and parenting, life and health support, whilst having appropriate care arrangements set in place for their children.

The opening was jointly conducted by the Hon Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, the Hon Di Farmer, State Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence; along with Lives Lived Well Chair Damian Wright. The Federal Member for Forde, Bert van Manen and the Acting Logan Mayor, Cherie Dalley also attended.

The Australian Government invested $986,000 in the construction of the units, jointly funding it with Lives Lived Well, which contributed more than $1M. The Queensland Government has committed to providing $1.7M in funding over three years to support the operation of the family alcohol and drug recovery program at the units.

Speaking at the launch, Mr McCormack said he knew Logan House, set among gum trees in Logan’s rural southwest, would be a special place.

“People will look along this deck at this beautiful view and will see there is hope, there is a future. They will experience the warmth of the counsellors here, people who will share their expertise, their care, their compassion, their love and it will make a difference.”

Lives Lived Well Chair Damian Wright expressed gratitude for the funding support of both state and federal governments.

“This funding allows us to work closely with families to turn their lives around after the harms and disruption of alcohol and drugs,” Mr Wright said.

Ice Help – giving families the skills to support a loved one

Our ICE Help service in Mackay in north Queensland is hosting a family support group for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families affected by methamphetamine use.

The service provides counselling and other supports to family members – regardless of whether the person with the ice dependency is accessing our support. Offering support to families has proven to be a powerful early intervention strategy for our ICE Help service.

Lives Lived Well’s ICE Help service came into effect in April 2017, enabled by funding from the Northern Queensland PHN. From 1 April 2017 to 1 November this year, the service supported 305 clients – made up of a mix of people seeking help for problematic ice use, as well as their families.

Sixty-four per cent of the people seeking help for their own use of methamphetamine were male, while 55 per cent of people seeking help for a family member were female. The most common age range of clients and family members was 18 to 45 years.

Many of the people accessing ICE Help go on to engage with other Lives Lived Well services in Mackay, including psychosocial supports, day withdrawal and outreach. More information about our Mackay services here.

Caboolture services now include withdrawal support and day rehab

Opening our new space: From, left Lives Lived Well CEO Mitchell Giles, Lives Lived Well Board Members Raylee Taylor and David Tapsall, Senator James McGrath, Lives Lived Well Board Chair Damian Wright and Lives Lived Well Clinical Services Manager Leah Tickner.

Almost immediately after opening the doors of our Brisbane North service early in 2017, our staff were receiving referrals four times higher than predicted. Recognising this high demand for alcohol and drug support services in the region, the Federal Government announced an additional $11M in funding for the service in June 2018. That funding has now been put into action, with the opening of our new service for drug and alcohol support in Caboolture.

The extra funding has enabled Lives Lived Well to significantly boost the level of support we provide to people affected by the problematic use of alcohol and other drugs, including methamphetamine (ice).

Part of this funding will go towards constructing a 20-bed live-in recovery residence, due for completion in 2019.

Lives Lived Well CEO, Mitchell Giles said “the addition of withdrawal and rehabilitation day supports puts extra counsellors in the field and means more support for more people at different stages of their recovery over a longer period.

“Since opening in late 2016, our Brisbane North services have supported 1813 people, including 570 from the Caboolture area. Most named methamphetamine (ice) as their primary drug of concern, with alcohol and cannabis also presenting strongly,” Mr Giles said.

“In some ways this is a positive sign. It means people are recognising that they have a problem and are comfortable in coming forward for support. That step alone takes courage.”

People wishing to access our support services can refer themselves online or phone 1300 727 957 (QLD) or 1300 596 366 (NSW).

On the road with Breakthrough for Families

Our new Breakthrough for Families (BFF) program has seen more than 100 people across Queensland participate in free public information sessions with our BFF team in just two months.

This innovative program, funded by the Queensland Department of Child Protection, Youth and Women, aims to demystify issues around alcohol and drugs and help families develop strategies to support a family member with a drug or alcohol problem.

A big part of support to families is teaching them self care. The information the program provides not only informs and educates people, but also makes them feel safer and teaches them what they don’t have to accept. As one participant said: “Thank you, now I can do this. We don’t have to put up with certain behaviours, we don’t have to tolerate abuse”.

Our BFF team has delivered 23 two-hour sessions in the Health and Hospital Service regions across Townsville, Cairns, the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane as well as one-on-one sessions with families and individuals, and outreach as far west as Hughenden and Richmond in north Queensland.

The education sessions aim to empower family members to make positive decisions as individuals and as part of a family unit. The sessions are a safe environment for family members to ask questions, allay concerns, build a plan and move forward with renewed confidence.

More sessions are planned for next year – visit our website to see dates and locations. Individuals and families can self-refer through our website or by calling 1300 727 957.

Read more about Breakthrough for Families.