Evaluating drug and alcohol first aid workshops
There is increasing interest in ongoing professional development and upskilling of generalist workers in relation to AOD issues. To serve this growing need, Lyndon Community (a non-government AOD treatment provider) developed a Drug and Alcohol First Aid workshop for community and health sector workers and the general public. NCETA conducted a pilot evaluation of the workshop to assess changes in participants’ AOD knowledge and their responses and attitudes to people using alcohol and other drugs over a three-month period. The evaluation methodology drew upon the tools in NCETA’s Work Practice Questionnaire which is available for download from the NCETA website.
The workshop was modelled on the successful format used by Mental Health First Aid. Its content, developed by Lyndon Community in consultation with key stakeholders, included information about types of drugs and their effects; harm reduction and treatment options; and communicating with people who use AOD.
A total of 22 workshops were conducted across NSW between October 2015 and June 2016 and participants were invited to participate in the evaluation via email prior to the workshop.
The results of the evaluation indicated that Drug and Alcohol Frist Aid workshops can lead to significant and sustained improvements in AOD-related knowledge and role adequacy. Importantly, three months after the workshops were conducted, participants from the community and health sector continued to report higher levels of knowledge and role adequacy than at baseline.
The workshops were also found to be popular with participants and were cost-effective to implement.
They were less successful in changing personal views about AOD use and motivation (i.e. the degree to which participants were motivated to respond to people using AOD). While it is acknowledged that attitudinal change can be difficult to achieve in the short-term, the evaluation recommended that targeted strategies (e.g. practical strategies for recognising, preventing and reducing stigma) may be appropriate in future workshops.
In summary, NCETA’s evaluation found that the Drug and Alcohol First Aid workshops meet an identified need for evidence-based AOD education for workers and community members, and supports the use of brief educational interventions to complement long-term professional development options. However, further research is needed to identify appropriate strategies to address stigma and stereotypical attitudes towards individuals who use AOD.