Healing at home: Developing a model for ambulatory alcohol "detox" in an Aboriginal community controlled health service

  • Jonathan Brett
  • Angela Dawson
  • Rowena Ivers
  • Leanne Lawrence
  • Sarah Barclay
  • Katherine Conigrave
Keywords: Aboriginal, Australians, alcohol, withdrawal, outpatient, home, detox


Introduction: Indigenous Peoples who have been colonized face a higher burden of harm from alcohol and increased risk of alcohol use disorders. Yet they often also have limited access to alcohol treatment. Limited access to withdrawal management (“detox” in particular) can be a barrier to recovery. Ambulatory or “outpatient” alcohol detox can offer improved treatment access, but no research has examined its feasibility and acceptability in Indigenous populations. Aim: To develop a model for outpatient detox delivered by an Australian Aboriginal community controlled health service (ACCHS), and to describe its feasibility and acceptability. Methods: This report describes a framework for alcohol treatment service development within an ACCHS through community, staff, and client consultation. Thematic analysis of focus groups and phone interviews were used to gain insight into the views and experiences of Aboriginal community stakeholders, service clients, and staff regarding alcohol detox services and the pilot of the outpatient detox program service model. Results: Individual, family, and community support was regarded as key to recovery from alcohol dependence. Outpatient detox was seen as a way of keeping the individual near this support. Reported positive aspects include satisfaction with the approach to care that was considered accessible, holistic, and integrated. Challenges and suggested improvements were identified. Discussion: Outpatient detox within an ACCHS was assessed as feasible and acceptable for carefully selected clients and was reported to aid access to treatment. More clinical experience is needed to fully delineate effectiveness and safety. 

Research Papers