ReGen celebrates launch of Australia’s first Mother and Baby withdrawal service (21/11/16)

See related coverage of the launch in The Age and the Uniting Church paper Crosslight.

Melbourne, VIC, 21st November 2016 – Together with UnitingCare ReGen staff and consumers, Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley MP today launched the agency’s new Mother and Baby residential withdrawal service in Ivanhoe.

Minister Foley recognised the need for a targeted service to increase the accessibility of alcohol and other drug treatment services for mothers with babies and young children:

We know that the challenges of being a new parent are significant – on top of trying to withdraw from alcohol or drugs, so this unit fills a much needed gap in treatment services.

ReGen CEO, Laurence Alvis reflected on the amount of work that has been involved in

It all started back in 2010, when we’d just had a mother and her young baby ‘accommodated’ within our adult withdrawal unit. We did this to remove access barriers to withdrawal for that mother, but the arrangement was not ideal and the structure of the service meant that it was not something we were going to be able to do on a regular basis.

We started talking to the Department of Health and Human Services about the possibility of developing a specialist Mother and Baby service in 2011. It’s been five years of hard work to get to this point, but we are now in the position to be able to work more closely together with other health and community services to support vulnerable families, protect children at risk and support sustainable changes to mothers’ alcohol and other drug use.

In sharing her experiences of alcohol and other drug treatment as a mother with young children, Anne highlighted the particular stigma experienced by this group and the importance of providing a safe, welcoming environment:

When my husband first made contact with ReGen, I had pretty much hit rock bottom. I found it too difficult to reach out to anyone, especially now that the majority of my new social circle were parents from school and day care. I was ashamed because I had children who needed me and I was not available for them and I also believed that people would think that I didn't love my kids. I was also scared that the authorities would take them away.

I remember the intake assessment and how bad I was feeling. I felt disgusting as a woman and ashamed as a Mother. I was frightened because I had no idea what would happen to me and how my kids would cope without me.

In 2013 I embarked upon a new journey – a sober life – I went to my first rehab. It was 80% male. I felt unsafe and it was near impossible to focus on my treatment. I overheard a guy saying "how could a Mother do that to her kids", He was talking about me. I felt judged as a woman and a failure as a mother. Needless to say this rehab didn't work out for me.

Mother and Baby service manager Rose McCrohan reflected on the impact of its physical environment on the experiences of the women who have used the service since it opened last month:

It’s still very early days, but we’re already seeing some remarkable transformations.

The mothers love this building. It’s beautiful and it makes them feel safe. It’s a wonderful place to undertake the first stage of their treatment.

Images of the new Mother and Baby service can be viewed on ReGen’s website.