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Addressing drug & other issues

There's more to drug use than drugs

“Drug prevention efforts have historically focused on changing drug-use behaviour by changing individual risk factors… Programs have tended to be simplistic, on the basis that if a single risk factor can be addressed then drug use and abuse can be prevented. 

…programs have tried to increase knowledge about the dangers of drug use or increase skills to resist drug use.  However, drug-use behaviours are the result of a complex interplay of individual and environmental factors that operate across the life-span, at multiple levels of the environment (for example situational, family, local community and national).” 
Social determinants of drug use, Spooner and Hetherington, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, 2004, p 21–22)


We have been implementing the Bridges Network Approach (BNA) in Blacktown Local Government Area, Western Sydney to address drug issues. In taking into account the complexities and context of alcohol and other drug problems, we work not just with individuals, but also with families and communities. As well as working to reduce drug-related harm, we work to increase resilience while building on the strengths of children, young people, adults, families, groups and communities, including Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse groups.

We recognise that no single person or organisation on their own can address drug issues in a community. Therefore, despite operating from a relatively small and insecure funding base, we have been proactive in sharing our resources and partnering with a range of organisations to provide treatment, early intervention and prevention strategies. The breadth and depth of our activities have only been possible because of our partnerships. Activities have included counselling, groups, parenting workshops, an Indigenous children's photovoice project, training for workers, coordination of community events and co-production of two films. Our activities from 2006-8 demonstrate well the scope of activities that is possible when using the Bridges Network Approach.  During this period, Bridges budget averaged $685,000 per year.  Our context needs to be taken into account to fully appreciate the achievements.

Activities have taken place at Bridges centre as well as at other services. We also promote the themes: "There's more to drug use than drugs," "Working together" and "Building on strengths." Our creative strategies profile the voices of community members around these themes, and increase understanding of the issues different groups face.


“By working in partnership with other agencies, Bridges has been able to expand the options available for its clients and programs as well as enhance the programs of other organisations ... Bridges is to be congratulated for working to address the complexity of drug problems...This is particularly important given the failure of society to adequately support child and youth development, family functioning and community strength.” - Dr Catherine Spooner School of Public Health & Community Medicine, University of NSW Co-author of Social determinants of drug use, published by the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC).


Recent partners have included Doonside Hub, Doonside Public School, Doonside Community Health, Mt Druitt Indigenous Church, Willmot Public School, Holy Family Centre, Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre, Aboriginal Medical Service Western Sydney, SydWest Multicultural Services Inc, Liverpool PCYC, Doonside High, Mt Druitt Mission Australia, Blacktown City Council and Chifley College - Shalvey.

Outcomes have included: increased safety for children, young people and families; decreased substance use for individuals; improved relationships and increased resilience for children, young people, families and groups; increased social inclusion and supportive networks for individuals, families, groups and organisations; and increased opportunities for voices to be heard and for participation of children, young people, adult community members and organisational representatives. 

Click here for more about the Bridges Network Approach for addressing drug issues and its development.





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