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Last Updated on February 1, 2023


Changing attitudes and perceptions toward clients living with the effects of substance misuse

The idyllic Mornington Peninsula is for some the ultimate get away, the weekender or even the long-held dream location to live. It is also the region of Victoria that is home to a growing number of people in need of the specialist non-residential rehabilitation services of Windana as part of the Stepping Up Consortium.

Since 2014, Lena Kashaeva has been a non-residential withdrawal nurse working with these clients who reach out for help or are referred to the service from a range of primary health services. Lena is our Windana team member working in the Stepping Up program, a collaboration with Odyssey House Victoria, Taskforce, Youth Projects and Anglicare. Together these agencies are providing support to people facing mental health, family violence and misuse of drugs and alcohol in the Mornington Peninsula area.

“My role has changed over time away from being pretty much all about detox support for clients to providing a broad range of general health support, guidance and advice. I learned fast that these people are living with complex circumstances that left unchecked would only distract and disrupt their recovery.”

Lena identified how critical it was to broker constructive relationships with the doctors and health service providers in order to provide the detox support, care and treatment plans for clients in need of help.

“When I first started to connect with local doctors, there was a real stigma about our client group. It was negative and intense. None of them wanted to be part of our client treatment. That tone is starting to diminish and the barriers are being slowly broken down and that reinforces how important this work is for our clients.”

Lena recalls one GP telling her that ‘we don’t want your [client] type here’. Since then, Lena has worked hard to build constructive positive working relationships with GP’s and primary health care professionals recognising that this is the only way for clients to receive a well ordered and appropriate treatment program.

Reflecting on this role and drawing on her experience in mental health and pharmacotherapy nursing, Lena is enjoying the challenge of working with clients in need of a holistic approach for support and treatment. Lena’s work takes in the areas from Mornington, across to Hastings and all the way across the Peninsula. She describes her clients lives as being chaotic and so much of her role is about helping to bring some order to their lives before they can even contemplate detox.

Lena describes the work as being profound referring to both the clients she works with and the way Windana supports her to get the job done. “Our referrals continue to increase week by week. But it is the increase in referrals from the local GP’s that are most satisfying. That reinforces our efforts to change perceptions and attitudes are working. I am so fortunate in the way Windana gives me freedom to be able to work in the best interests of our clients and be creative in how we construct a treatment plan for clients in partnership with the local health services.”

Lena says her work is ‘both challenging but deeply rewarding’. She reflects on the fact that the health system sometimes works against clients and the situation can seem hopeless. But, she is inspired by the fact that programs being delivered through Stepping Up are actually helping to change lives. “When you walk past your most chaotic former client on the street and they stop to share they are ‘three years sober’ this reminds you why we are in these roles and that change is real, achievable and tangible with the right support.”

Lena Kashaeva
Non-Residential Withdrawal Nurse
Stepping up, Frankston and Mornington Peninsula