Tough love rehab’s poor success rates revealed

Peter Lyndon-James.
Peter Lyndon-James.

CLAIMS by controversial drug rehab facility Shalom House that it is the most effective in Australia have been further eroded with new figures showing the number of people who have completed the program is less than five per cent.

A Community News investigation last month revealed that only about 49 residents have officially “graduated” from the Swan Valley facility since it started in 2012 – a completion rate of 12 per cent based on an estimated 400 people who had been in the program.

However, a long-time supporter of Shalom House, Steve Blizard, revealed that more than 1000 people have been through Shalom’s doors in the past seven years.

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Shalom House founder Peter Lyndon-James.

In a Facebook post following recent media reports on the centre, Mr Blizard said he had been a volunteer mentor at Shalom since its inception.

“Even received a certificate from Volunteering Australia for doing so last week,” he wrote.

“So I’ve personally met most of the 1000 individuals that had been in, or graduated from, the program.

“Many of whom are in my Facebook friends list now.

“Has Shalom got/had problems? Yes. Is it perfect? It will never be perfect.

“Is it what a lot of men with addiction need? Definitely.”

Mr Blizard told Community News that the five-stage program was tough, and many walked away after a day or two while others had failed and returned several times.

“The bulk of the residents are in for just a day or two so there is quite a big turnover,” he said.

“We are dealing with guys who have had addiction issues for 10 to 20 years and many aren’t going to make the grade because they realise this program isn’t for them.

“It is incredibly rigid.”

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Shalom House is a cold turkey rehabilitation centre.

Experts in the drug and alcohol field say that the average completion rate of people in publicly-funded residential rehabilitation services across the country is about 35 per cent – seven times the apparent rate at Shalom House.

A system review of the industry by Australasian Therapeutic Community Association chair Lynne Magor-Blatch in 2014 reported that although residential rehabs have been shown to be effective in the treatment of substance use disorders, completion rates are low, ranging from nine to 56 per cent.

“I’ve been around therapeutic communities for a very long time and the worst part about the tough love approach is that often people who come into our programs have never had any love,” she said.

“A lot have had terrible lives so if people come in, in a fractured state then going into a program which is bullying or even abusive will certainly not be helpful for their recovery.

“Cowboys in the industry that run programs not based on best practice have been allowed to set up because mums, dads, partners are so desperate to get their family member into treatment.”

Based on the 1000 people Mr Blizard says have been in Shalom House, the completion rate is only 4.9 per cent.

— If you or someone you know needs help call Lifeline WA on 13 11 14, 24 hours a day or dial 000 if life is in danger.

Alcoholics Anonymous 24 Hour ‘Helpline’ 08 9325 3566 or 1300 22 22 22
Narcotics Anonymous 08 9227 8361
Alcohol and Drug Support Line 08 9442 5000 (Metro), 1800 198 024 (Country).

sarah.brookes@communitynews.com.au