MDAS Clinician recognised for leadership

A MDAS clinician has been recognised for her innovation and leadership in the development of alcohol and drugs programs and services.

Mallee District Aboriginal Services Social and Emotional Wellbeing team leader Raelene Stephens was recently honoured with the Appreciation Award at the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Awards.
Raelene Stephens was presented with the Quitline Appreciation Award at the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Awards in Adelaide.
The Appreciation Award is a new award recognising a non-Indigenous person who has made an important commitment and contribution to reducing the harmful effects of drug and alcohol abuse among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over at least five years.
An experienced nurse and midwife, Rae is the driving force behind the MDAS Social and Emotional Wellbeing Hub – a Victorian-first initiative that is now the benchmark for SEWB services to Koori communities across the State.
MDAS Director of Health Services Danielle Dougherty said since taking up her role at MDAS seven years ago, Rae had built Victoria’s largest Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Service, with a staff that is more than 60 percent Indigenous.
“SEWB services include Alcohol and Drugs programs, Mental Health services, Gambling and Social and Emotional Wellbeing Programs, so it’s a challenging space, but Rae is a very determined individual,” Ms Dougherty said.
“She is energetic, committed and collaborative and the goal that drives her is finding a better way for delivering our services to Koori clients,” she said.
“Rae nurtures talent and she brings her team on board in setting goals and achieving them, as well as working in partnership with a huge range of community groups and other agencies.”
Ms Stephens’ work has resulted in a State-wide Mental Health demonstration project being established in Mildura, with the aim of building a more integrated approach to mental health care for Aboriginal people.
MDAS is the lead agency for the program, which is in partnership with Mildura Base Hospital and Mallee Family Care.
But Ms Dougherty said Ms Stephens’ key achievement was the establishment of a Social and Emotional Wellbeing Hub at MDAS.
“Our SEWB clients were telling our caseworkers they felt uncomfortable accessing social and emotional wellbeing services in the clinical environment of a health service,” Ms Dougherty said.
“Rae and her team came up with a ‘hub’ concept, which is now established at MDAS and is working incredibly well,” she said.
“The hub is its own entity, it’s discreet and less clinical in its approach – and clients feel very strongly that it’s a safe place where they can come and engage with services. 
“The community is voting with its feet – client contacts have more than doubled, but more importantly, we’re seeing improved outcomes within the client base.”
MALLEE DISTRICT ABORIGINAL SERVICES  “Our Vision: Generations of vibrant, healthy and strong Aboriginal communities”

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