Understanding remote Aboriginal drug and alcohol residential rehabilitation clients: Who attends, who leaves and who stays?


Introduction and Aims: Aboriginal residential rehabilitation services provide healing for Aboriginal people who misuse substances. There is limited available research that empirically describes client characteristics of these services. This study examined 5 years of data of a remote Aboriginal residential rehabilitation service. Design and Methods: Retrospective analysis of 329 client admissions to Orana Haven Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre from 2011 to 2016. Multinomial and binary logistic regressions were conducted to identify trends in the data. Results: There were 66 admissions recorded annually, of which most identified as Aboriginal (85%). Mean length of stay was 56 days, with one in three (36%) discharging within the first month. A third (32%) completed, 47% self-discharged and 20% house-discharged from the program. Client age significantly increased over time (P = 0.03), with most aged from 26 to 35. Older clients were significantly more likely to readmit (P < 0.002) and stay longer than 90 days (P = 0.02). Most clients were referred from the criminal justice system, significantly increasing from 79% (2011–2012) to 96% (2015–2016) (P < 0.001) and these clients were more likely to self-discharge (P < 0.01). Among a subset of clients, most (69%) reported concerns with polysubstance use and half (51%) reported mental illness. Discussion and Conclusions: The current study makes a unique contribution to the literature by empirically describing the characteristics of clients of a remote Aboriginal residential rehabilitation service to more accurately tailor the service to the client’s needs. Key recommendations include integrating these empirical observations with staff and client perceptions to co-design a model of care, standardise data collection, and routinely following-up clients to monitor treatment effectiveness. © 2018 The Authors Drug and Alcohol Review published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs

Drug and Alcohol Review