Calvary Riverina’s Belinda Waugh breaking down stigma and changing lives

According to colleagues, Calvary Riverina Drug and Alcohol Centre’s (CRDAC) Nursing Unit Manager, Belinda Waugh, has an incredible ability to listen.

“Each person, whether they’re a colleague or client, is treated as an individual by Belinda,” Calvary Riverina Hospital General Manger, Jacki Hilton, said.

“I think there is a lot of a stigma around drugs and alcohol. Many people walk into CRDAC and feel they are going to see the bottom of the earth in here, but that’s not the reality. Our clients could be your brother or sister, mum or dad, or your best friend,” Belinda said.

“They are just like the rest of us, they’ve just had a tougher journey than any of us could ever consider.”

Introducing Belinda

Belinda has been with Calvary Riverina Hospital for more than a decade. Previously as a theatre nurse in day surgery, and as the quality coordinator, the challenges of the COVID pandemic led to a much-needed change.

“I always enjoyed visiting CRDAC when I was the quality coordinator, so when the manager position became available I asked if I could run the centre for 12 months and get it back on its feet. I never left,” Belinda said.

“My favourite part of the role is the client contact. You become a nurse to have that patient contact and help people. I didn’t realise how much I missed that caring element until I started my role at CRDAC.”

The centre provides a range of drug and alcohol treatment services for individuals, families and communities.

About the centre’s refurbishment

This week, work began on a $450,000 refurbishment of one of three existing cottages at the Calvary Riverina Drug and Alcohol Centre (CRDAC). The cottage is used for the transitional housing phase of the centre’s six-month program.

Transitioning back in to the community after completing the centre’s residential program can be a challenging time for clients. The transitional housing phase allows clients to learn what their new normal looks like. Many clients use this phase as an opportunity to start working again and undertaking everyday things like; cooking, cleaning and gardening. In addition to also having support from CRDAC during this phase, many clients continue with their treatment through one of the centre’s outpatient/day programs. The cottages are located next door to CRDAC, supporting clients during this stage of recovery.

The $450,000 refurbishment is a joint funding initiative between the Network of Alcohol and other Drugs Agencies (NADA) and Calvary.

More about Belinda’s role

As the CRDAC Nursing Unit Manager, Belinda runs the home detoxification support service, residential treatment, the centre’s Day Program and the Women’s Wellness and Recovery Program.

Each client has their own complex health and social needs, and the range of programs offered by Calvary aims to provide support at the centre and when the client leaves.

“You have some really big weeks where you just say to yourself: ‘I have no idea what happened’. There is always a crisis, there is always drama, and there is always something massive going on that you’re probably not used to in the nursing field,” Belinda said.

“Everyone that walks through our door has some form of trauma, and they may have an untreated mental illness, that has caused a crisis in their lives. We take all of this into consideration when helping our clients.”

While the work is challenging, the rewards of helping clients change their lives is the payoff for the staff at CRDAC. The results are of their hard work is evident.

The Results

In 2023:

  • 11 clients completed the six-month residential program – a record number of graduations for the centre
  • 44 clients completed CRDAC’s six-week residential program
  • 15 clients completed the 12-week residential program.

“We have a 22-bed unit at CRDAC where we provide a therapeutic setting for our clients to begin their journey of recovery,” Belinda said.

“We provide education and deliver a holistic program to arm clients with the skills to thrive outside. We also help clients reintegrate with community and family life, making sure they know they are not on their own once they leave the centre.”

CRDAC also provides outpatient support through the Day Program, home detoxification support services and the Women’s Wellness Program.

The Women’s Wellness Program supports staff to travel across the Riverina and surrounds to assist pregnant women, and mothers with children under the age of five experiencing substance use issues.

In 2023, Belinda received the Calvary Riverina Hospital Mary Potter Award recognising her work at CRDAC. The Award celebrates staff demonstrating sustained excellence and exceptional commitment to Calvary’s mission.