The first six months of the ACT Recovery College Trial have been a roller coaster ride, where we held on for dear life and hoped for the momentum to gradually slow down to a more mundane pace. Whilst we are still waiting for this, we are extremely happy with the way that the College has been received and the way that our students have reacted to our courses and attending the College.
In the first three months of the year, the College was situated in the Mental Health Community Coalition ACT (MHCC ACT) offices, where we were busy making contacts to get educators on board, looking for and leasing premises for the College, developing a brand for the College and arranging to purchase co produced courses. MHCC ACT Board, management and staff were very generous with their time and resources with the funding for the College finally settled on 12 March 2019.
Our branding was finalised in March. The branding was developed after consumer feedback showed enthusiasm towards using a symbol that was recognisable to locals in the ACT and a symbol that encouraged feelings of inclusion and connection to the community, the Royal Bluebell. The vision for our logo was to reflect the College’s values. Traditionally bluebells are emblematic of humility. The colour, blue and green were chosen to symbolise tranquillity, dependability, trust, knowledge, growth, renewal, strength and health.
We were lucky to find a lovely office in North Lyneham for the College and we moved there on the 4 April with the help of the MHCC ACT staff. The Official Opening of the College on 10 April was a tremendous success. We received a lot of positive comments about the office, the atmosphere and the surroundings as well as congratulations on finally opening the College. These comments continued over the next week when the College held an Open Week with the College open for visitors each morning. We had over 100 people drop in to have a look and talk to us about the College.
Knowledge about the College is spreading with Recovery College staff participating in meetings with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, the Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm, Pedal Foundation, ACT Multicultural Advisory Committee, Black Dog Institute, ACT Office of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Indigenous Elders Nannies Group, Indigenous Women’s Yarning Circle, ANU Centre for Mental Health Research,
MIEACT, ACT Health CAMHS, 1000 Hearts, Wellways, ACACIA, ADACAS, CIT, South Eastern Sydney Recovery College and the Australian Recovery Colleges Communities of Practice. Woden Community Services have attended the College a number of times with participants of the TReC service. Anecdotally stakeholders are very interested and supportive of the College.
Work on the Governance for the College continued based on work completed by MHCC ACT staff during July – December 2018. We were very lucky to get Meyer Vanderberg to work, pro bono, on incorporating the College and in May, the College became a company limited by guarantee. They continue to work on our registration as a charitable organisation. A proposal for a governance structure to incorporate a Board as specified in the Recovery College Constitution was supplied to ACT Health for their approval in June.
The College has been successful in obtaining funding grants to develop and conduct courses on a number of subjects including physical activity and trauma inform practice. One application for setup and promotion costs was still outstanding at the end of June.
All permanent staff are now on board with Tessa, the Education Manager, starting in February, Dianna, the Recovery College Manager, starting in March and Kyle, the Office Admin and Student Support Officer, starting in June. At the end of June, the College had a pool of 23 casual Educators from a variety of areas, including five ACT Health staff, three members of ACACIA, a nutritionist, and a counsellor/coach from private practice and a psychologist in training. Around 85% of our educators and all of the permanent staff have lived experience of mental health issues.
The ACT Health Recovery College Implementation Officer started work in late December 2018, however he resigned from the position in June 2019. Whilst he was in the position he was working spreading the word about the College in ACT Mental Health services. He held 16 meetings with team leaders and held nine in-service briefing sessions, as mentioned above, five ACT Health staff co facilitated six of the courses held in the first term.
Several training opportunities were held in March for potential educators of the College. Mind Recovery College staff conducted Educator Training for the courses bought from Mind Recovery College and facilitated a Recovery College Course development session. The following week , Inside Out facilitators who have produced and currently facilitate a co production course at SESRC held a day and half training in co- production to around 15 participants.
The first professional development training for Educators was held on 9 May. Fifteen people attended. In the morning we ran through the College’s policies and procedures and the Educator Handbook, had a discussion on the DoNoHarm Framework and talked about self care for educators and the opportunities for supervision and reflective practice. Feedback from the Educators is that they value the opportunity to get together as a group and would like to do this regularly. Educator training session will be held once a term with the second session coinciding with Rachel Perkins visit to Canberra.
Educators also have the opportunity to join a monthly Educator Group Supervision and Reflective Practice Sessions with a qualified clinical supervisor who also has extensive experience in education settings as an educator. The first session was held on 18 June.
Permanent staff member have regular team meetings and have group supervision sessions every four – six weeks. Individual supervision session can be arranged if needed.
At the end of June, there are 67 students enrolled in the College and another 20 people waiting for enrolments to open for the second term. Most of our students are not currently involved with ACT Health Mental Health services. The students heard from a variety of sources:
around a third of the student hearing about the College from a community organisation,
about a quarter from either media, Facebook or internet searches,
about a tenth from with their family and friends, and
six per cent heard about the College from ACT Health or sources.
The rest of the students heard about it through word of mouth, the College staff or their workplace. It is an exciting indication that most students in the first term are people not already known to us and most are not current clients of ACT Health Mental Health services.
All students fill in an enrolment form, they are then contacted to arrange an orientation meeting. The majority of students had an orientation meeting before attendance at first session. Data on gender, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, CALD status, LGBTIQ status, age, and help seeking history is collected. Information on employment, education and volunteering and use of acute mental health services and hospital admissions is collected during the orientation.
The first term of courses started in early May 2019. 12 courses of varying durations and weeks were held.
six courses were delivered by third party organisations under the auspices of the Recovery College,
two courses were existing courses developed by and purchased from the Mind Recovery College,
four courses were developed for the ACT Recovery College.
All courses were held in the Recovery College and during business hours in the first term. Although Recovery College staff are developing guidelines and have opened discussion with other organisations for delivery of courses in alternative venues and times, until Educators are comfortable with facilitation and holding courses, these guidelines will not be implemented.
All courses for the first term were fully subscribed (12 students per course) with most courses having a waitlist of people wanting to enrol. In the first term, we had a 92% completion rate for all courses and 84% completion rate for multiday or week courses.
Course feedback forms are completed pre and post session from students. This feedback is being collated for analysis and will form part of future reports However, an initial examination of the data shows the majority of the students were agreed or strongly agreed that they felt better about themselves after the course and they felt more hopeful about their recovery.
“I enjoyed the one to one approach, [the educator’s] technical expertise as well as his creativity, patience, approachability, supportiveness, confidence and reassurance as well as the overall acceptance and openness of all group members, everyone’s good humour and ease with each other…… I felt privileged to receive the level of attention that I did and was filled with happiness at not only being challenged but contributing to something that on my own would be unachievable. This course embodies what the Recovery Centre stands for – learning, connection, opportunity, hope. I would, and actually already have, thoroughly recommended this course. I would really like to sign up for this course again as I think this is a fabulous opportunity to advance my skills further in a very supportive environment.” (Sound Recovery Student)
Feedback from end of term gathering
The College has provided: ”Hope in my recovery and the ability to help and support others (end of term feedback)”
“Feeling accepted and safe here”
“Hope is very important, and illusive. I think I really felt hopeful when I attended sessions (few) and reinforced some good tools and strategies.”
Feedback was also gathered from course facilitators at the end of each session both in a face to face debriefing session and as written feedback answering a series of questions.
The next six months……………
1. Second term dates 29 July to 27 September, we have 18 courses running in that time:
four courses are delivered by third party organisations under the auspices of the Recovery College
two courses were run last term
12 courses are ACT Recovery College courses specifically co developed for the College.
2. Work on the last term for the year has commenced with plans to hold similar courses to the second term.
3. Work will continue on the Governance structure for the College. Invitation to be a member of the inaugural Co-Design Committee have been sent out and the first meeting planned for September. The recruitment for the Board will commence as soon as we get approval from ACT Health to change governance structure from the one outlined in our Service Level Agreement.
4. Discussions on the ACT Recovery College liaison position will continue
5. The search for additional funding will continue.