As part of the Victorian Alcohol & Drug Association 2017 Conference in February 2017, Windana’s Quality Coordinator Debra Millist presented a session “Hearing the Consumer Voice” about a new ten-person Joint Advisory Committee that Windana has established with the Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC). “We had a fantastic response to the session,” says Debra who presented with SHARC colleague Natalie Wloch and committee members Cina Wheeler, Jo-ann Stenton and James Guthrie. “The truth is, every community organisation says ‘we need to do more consumer engagement’ but it something that people have difficulty getting momentum around,” she says. (Consumer engagement refers to clients and carers.) This consumer committee is made up of clients and carers from both Windana and SHARC, roughly an even split of clients and carers. As Debra reflects: ‘’the work of the committee is so important because all the research shows us that if we don’t effectively engage our clients in the recovery process, then you don’t get good outcomes.”
The VAADA presentation discussed the process of establishing the joint Consumer Advisory Committee, and some of the outcomes so far. In less than a year, the group, that meets monthly at SHARC or Windana, has revised essential client care brochures into accessible languages and concepts better understood by clients and carers, who often have limited literacy skills. This means critical messages can get across. “We are now moving into the committee actually contributing to the redesign of programs and services. “The ultimate goal is to have consumer representation on the Quality and Safety Subcommittee of the Board,” says Debra.
Another sign that the Joint Advisory Committee is gaining traction in both organisations is how many staff are wanting to run ideas and initiatives past the group of clients and carers for feedback.
Clearly the VAADA presentation hit a nerve with the audience. “When the presentation was finished, practically the whole audience came over to the committee members and staff to get more information.”