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Australian Red Cross save-a-mate program wins inaugural Award for Innovative Drug Policy

Australian Red Cross save-a-mate program wins inaugural Award for Innovative Drug Policy 12 March 2008

External Evaluations on program reveal significantly positive impact on drug use amongst Australian youth
VIENNA – On the occasion of the 51st Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, ICOS on Wednesday presented The Australian Red Cross save-a-mate (SAM) program with the inaugural Award for Innovative Drug Policy.

Initially launched in 1999, the save-a-mate program’s peer education comes in direct contact with more than 40,000 young people in Australia each year, and delivers training to more than 10,000. The initiative addresses the young in all communities, including vulnerable populations such as the Aboriginals, the prisoner population and sex workers. With over 300 volunteers nationally delivering training and first-aid services on a wide range of drug use and alcohol issues, the peer-to-peer campaign has been highly successful in Australia.

“This initiative powerfully illustrates the effectiveness of health-based approaches to drug issues, and sends a strong message on the need for more realistic and humanitarian measures,” said Emmanuel Reinert, Executive Director of ICOS, who presented the award to Shaun Hazeldine, National Manager of save-a-mate, at a dinner in Vienna which was attended by delegates from the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

“The Australian Red Cross has set a shining example to other societies all over the world to implement drug policies that are cost-effective, community empowering and efficient in reducing stigma associated with drug use in diverse communities,” Reinert added.

External Evaluations of program reveal positive impact on drug use

Two external evaluations conducted by Australia’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre on save-a-mate’s training scheme revealed overwhelmingly positive results. 95% of all participants engaged in peer education within a month of the program, while between 20 and 45% of those questioned had positively changed their own alcohol and other drug use within one month.

“These results show just how much of a positive impact save-a-mate is having on Australia’s youth,” said Hazeldine. “It’s a bottom up, innovative, diverse and flexible community-based program that works because it is based on community strengths and develops community resources. Not only that – with one member of staff providing training for up to 2000 people, its volunteer-based nature makes it highly cost-effective.

“save-a-mate’s strength is its ability to adapt to different contexts to address the needs of Australia’s young people. We have volunteers in music festivals, bars and clubs distributing safe party kits to the vulnerable, as well as helpers training sex workers to cope with overdoses and delivering training in prisons to inmates with less than six months left on their sentences because one quarter of all fatal overdoses occur among recently released inmates.”

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