Graphic: Grace and Erin outside Gulargambone Healthcare Centre
Erin Blanch is pleased with the way our new alcohol and other drugs (AoD) program is being received in Gilgandra and Gulargambone, even though it has only been available for the past few months. Erin, an Aboriginal health worker for Western NSW Local Health District, has almost nine years of experience in Indigenous health issues.
“I’ve waited a long time for a consistent drugs and alcohol program” she says. “Getting people to trust and become engaged in counselling services is difficult. Methamphetamine and illicit prescription painkillers are the biggest problem in this area, they are so addictive. Most people are not taking drugs or drinking to excess to be in the ‘in group’, they’re doing it to cope with other issues, such as stress or life difficulties. They generally don’t believe they have a problem with addiction.”
Erin says that patience and consistency are very important for this type of program to work with Aboriginal people.
“Grace Carniato comes here weekly with the AoD program,” says Erin. “She has a good understanding of Aboriginal people and a good rapport with everyone. Generally people don’t say they have an addiction problem. A lot of people are in denial. When I see this I let them know that we have someone who can help them with things I can’t.
“Word does get around. People can see that she doesn’t judge, she doesn’t tell them what to do. There is a real stigma around seeing a drug and alcohol counsellor or having mental health issues, so it’s hard for people to receive the help they need. But they see she is there every week and that’s important to build confidence that the help will be there when they’re ready. It’s a very slow process but I can see that it’s working.”