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Otago researchers evaluate The Salvation Army’s Bridge Programme

The Clocktowers clock

Friday 25 September 2015 12:34pm

Testing The Bridge Report image

A twelve-month University of Otago evaluation study of people being treated for alcohol and drug dependency at The Salvation Army Bridge Treatment Programme reports that client recovery outcomes match leading treatment programmes internationally.

Conducted by the University’s Departments of Psychology, Psychological Medicine, and Preventive & Social Medicine, the study tracked the health outcomes of 325 Bridge clients.

“This study shows clients are benefiting substantially from the treatment programme” says Commissioner Alistair Herring National Director of Addiction Services for The Salvation Army. “It is an extremely pleasing result and what we hoped to achieve for our clients. We’ve been providing addiction treatment for 100 years in New Zealand. It is gratifying to find our current treatment practice has evolved in a way that mirrors the best international treatment practices.”

Dr Tess Patterson, who co-led the study with Dr Julien Gross, says that clients who completed treatment experienced statistically significant reductions in harmful substance use and improvements in their physical and mental health as well as improvements in perceived quality of life and reduction in criminal activity and other negative consequences related to substance use.

A unique feature offered by Salvation Army treatment programmes is spirituality. Even in a secular nation like New Zealand, it appears that an awareness of generic spirituality (not necessarily religion) improved outcomes for participants and that the vast majority of clients valued the role of spirituality in the programme. This is particularly important in the health recovery of indigenous Maori and Pacific clients.

To evaluate this aspect, the Otago research team included Dr Richard Egan, a health promotion researcher with a longstanding research interest in the role of spirituality in health and education.

As well as confirming present treatment methods, the report guides The Salvation Army on the future treatment direction of the Bridge programme.

The report will be publicly launched in Wellington on the 25th September. The launch will be followed by four seminars in Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch, and Dunedin. The seminars will give opportunity for community, industry, and client feedback on the future direction of the Bridge Treatment Programme.

The research emerges from a 2011 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the University and The Salvation Army. The MOU established a collaboration in which some of Otago’s leading academics would team up with the faith-based social services agency to evaluate The Salvation Army’s social programmes, provide rigorous international research-based evidence for those programmes, and help inform the policy debate around social deprivation, alcohol and gambling, mental health, and family violence.

The then Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) Professor Helen Nicholson said at the time of the signing that the partnership opened up the possibility of research and social policy work which will benefit not just both parties but our society as a whole.

“The agreement also helps fulfil the University’s strategic vision of engaging with nongovernmental agencies that have a clear community focus,” Professor Nicholson said.

The report can be accessed here.