The Bridge Journey program introduced to Port Stephens high school

BRIDGE JOURNEY: Oasis youth worker Dana Copp (left) with Major Christine Martin from The Salvation Army Bridge program.

BRIDGE JOURNEY: Oasis youth worker Dana Copp (left) with Major Christine Martin from The Salvation Army Bridge program.

Mental health, drugs and alcohol use, addiction and anger management are being tackled head on in a tried-and-tested program coming to Port Stephens.

The Bridge Journey program aims to help young people understand the various categories of drugs, the short and long-term impacts on the body, the path to addiction and its correlation with mental health issues.

Tomaree High School is embracing the Bridge Journey with students participating in an intensive five-week program, starting on November 1.

Student Support Officer Cal Baillie said that students could self refer into the program or their parents can recommend them.

“Once they have complete the first stage of the program, students can then elect to complete parts two and three if they choose,” Mr Baillie said.

“Bridge links at-risk students to support services which ultimately gives them the best chance of success. In the past we've had some really good results with reductions in drug and alcohol use and risk taking behaviours.”

The initial Bridge Program model was developed by The Salvation Army 40 years ago in response to the growing issue of addiction and mental health.

Since then the program has undergone extensive external academic review to ensure its ongoing relevance and effectiveness. In more recent times the program is being delivered to high school students and via individual referrals by the Salvation Army’s Hunter Oasis Youth Network.

Oasis program manager James Iuliano said that Bridge had been successful in working with young people in Hunter communities for several years and he hoped that Tomaree High would be the first of many Port schools to adopt the program.

“We know that young people in every community are faced with important decisions around drug and alcohol use. It may begin with what might seem like casual, social experimentation but it can quickly become a very isolating and lonely experience,” Mr Iuliano said.

“In addition to drug addiction, the program also explores anger management, how addiction impacts an individual’s relationships with family and friends, while also equipping young people with the skills and knowledge they need to seek help and create positive change.”

Mr Iuliano said the Bridge outreach team worked in partnership with school leadership to ensure that the program was suited to the school’s unique needs and culture.

“We are trained and experienced in working with young people and we take great pride in delivering a program that’s interesting, engaging and genuinely relevant to young people and their life experiences.

“Ultimately our job is to can connect with individuals at their level to help keep them safe and healthy.”

In addition to school-based delivery, there is a Bridge Journey 12-week program available to individuals.

Anyone interested in taking part is invited to speak with an Oasis outreach counsellor at the Salvos Family Store in Salamander Bay from 12.30pm each Thursday.

Program facilitator Julie Gunther said that the Oasis centre was dedicated to providing a range of services to young people aged 12 to 25 years.

“I will be running the program at Tomaree High School and I am looking at offering the service to individuals from the Salvation Army store,” she said.

She is experienced with working with young people who are at risk or currently using substances of addiction and have anger management or mental health issues.

The Bridge Journey is a three stage program that provides group education to young people at risk of substance misuse and explores the road to addiction and the path to freedom.

The three stages are Journey to Addiction – to identify the impact of drugs that lead to addiction; Journey to Change – to understand the change process; and Journey to Freedom – to sustained recovery and wellness.

Mr Iuliano said that Oasis also conducted a Work Development Order program, whereby staff liaised with clients needing to work off their fines. It also aims to empower youth to take control over their own life journey.

“Certificates can be presented to courts as completion of alcohol and drug education.”

Contact the Oasis Hunter centre on 4969 8066.