During COVID-19 restrictions, the Odyssey House Youth & Family Services team have come up with some alternate ways to engage young people who may be at-risk of problems with, or are using drugs and alcohol. We know that many young people have felt disconnected from social supports and regular activities, which has led to increased alcohol & other drug use, mental health issues, increased risky behaviours and increased risk within the family environment. Specifically, the mental health impact on young people has increased due to social isolation and disruptive routines.
Our team has been offering additional and more frequent, counselling sessions, which have been delivered using telephone or video sessions, based on the young person’s preference. Some young people do not have access to the internet therefore creating a barrier for them to engage with services that only offer online services and contact. To support this, we have distributed some refurbished laptops and mobile phones, and provided assistance with phone and data plans. More recently, a new state government initiative with Telstra is also supplying some mobile phones with a 12-month plan to keep people connected. Whilst we have initially used the Zoom and WhatsApp platforms, we have moved to Healthdirect as it is an easier and more secure platform and does not require an app to be downloaded for its use.
Many young people have reported that training and employment opportunities are limited with some of them disengaging from education due to lack of motivation and falling behind in school-work. Odyssey House has supplied food and clothing vouchers where necessary to young people, and where they are required to attend residential rehabilitation, detoxification and court appointments, we have been able to offer taxi vouchers to support their safe travel arrangements. Feedback has shown that these initiatives have all helped reduce the barriers for young people to get the treatment they need and to stay connected.
We will continue to provide young people with information and education around harm minimisation and relapse prevention practices during COVID-19. We will also assist them to understand the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic; how the restrictions impact them and work together to develop strategies to recover until we can all return to COVID normal.