Australia’s largest network of secular, evidence-based addiction support meetings has received urgent funding from the Australian Government to transition hundreds of face-to-face meetings into online video and telephone conference support groups. SMART Recovery Australia will receive $0.4 million of the $6 million that was announced last Friday to support people affected by addiction through the COVID-19 pandemic.

We commend the Federal Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP for this contribution, as it will support many Australians with co-existing mental health and addiction problems to receive online help at a time when there is increased community anxiety and distress. 

Ryan McGlaughlin, SMART Recovery Australia Executive Director, says: “This recognises the importance of investment in continuity of care, especially relapse prevention. The effective funding of services such as SMART helps relieve the pressure on acute care, at a challenging time for health services, creating happier, healthier, stronger communities for us all. These services will also save the Australian taxpayer millions of dollars in hospital beds, rehab, time away from work, and alleviate community suffering related to addiction.”

And that’s not just conjecture. According to the American Medical Association: 

“large scale disasters, whether traumatic (eg, the World Trade Center attacks or mass shootings), natural (eg, hurricanes), or environmental (eg, Deepwater Horizon oilspill), are almost always accompanied by increases in depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder, a broad range of other mental and behavioral disorders, domestic violence, and child abuse.”

The massive expansion of our online program will enable higher levels of connection with others, enabling even those who are alone in lockdown to share their experiences and recovery journey with others just like them.

SMART Recovery’s National Program Manager, Daniel Raffell, can vouch for that first-hand. He says:

“Seventeen years ago, I experienced a dysfunctional relationship with heroin and other drugs. At the time, I felt I had nowhere to turn. If I had been able to access SMART’s online meetings and key into a community of like-minded people, it’s possible those dark days of drug use and isolation may have been averted.

I know first-hand how vital it is for people with addiction issues to be able to access flexible, evidence based support, such as online meetings. This is why I dedicated my life and career to use my past experience to show others that change is possible.

This funding could not have come at a more important time: in a season of isolation, anxiety and uncertainty, people may be finding it more challenging than ever to control addictive behaviours. Positive connections and peer support are key to successfully managing these addictive patterns, and through its online meetings and web-based service model, SMART is uniquely positioned to provide this support at this crucial time.”

Our message to the public is simple: If you are one of the many Australians dealing with an escalation in addictive coping behaviours due to the anxiety of the COVID-19 situation, you don’t have to go it alone. A free SMART Recovery online meeting can be joined in seconds – so next time you face an urge or simply need support, you can instantly key into a like-minded community.

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact: 

Michael Bellamy | Head of Digital & Brand

t: 02 9373 5100  |  m: 0421 977 652

e: mbellamy@srau.org.au

Ryan McGlaughlin  | Executive Director – SMART Recovery Australia

Daniel Raffell | National Program Manager