WDHB celebrates prison's successful Te Tirohanga drug treatment programme


5 June 2018

The recently introduced Kaupapa Maori Drug Treatment Programme called Te Tirohanga, at Whanganui Prison is a great example of what can be achieved when multiple agencies pull together says Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) Mental Health and Addictions Service nurse manager Katheryn Butters.

Ms Butters and WDHB clinical manager for the Te Tirohanga programme Mark Wood say local iwi mental health and addictions provider Te Oranganui, Whanganui DHB and Whanganui Regional Health Network (WRHN) have good reason to celebrate the success stories emerging from the Te Tirohanga programme they jointly run at Whanganui’s Kaitoke Prison.

“We know from talking to prisoners who enrol in the Te Tirohanga programme, that it is having a positive impact on most of them,” Mr Wood says.

There are five Te Tirohanga units in prisons across the country. Te Tirohanga is the over-arching six-phase programmme. Whanganui Prison offers the programme in its Te Tirohanga Whanui Unit where they work intensively with the men. Building trust between all parties is a critical part of the programme. In developing the programme, Corrections’ Maori Governance Board identified five kaupapa values that provide the basis for interactions between the staff and prisoners who are expected to model these values on a daily basis.

The programme covers addiction theory, Te Whare Tapa Wha, colonisation, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and many other concepts and tools. The programme is designed to help participants understand addiction and how their addiction has impacted on them, their whanau and the community. It also focuses on arming the men with knowledge and skills that will help them make changes to their behaviour in the future.

Mr Wood says Te Oranganui provides the fundamental kaupapa elements and overall management of the programme whilst Whanganui DHB contributes the clinical leadership and expertise with four community providers delivering a mix of constructive activities for men on the programme. They include:

  • WRHN provides a six-week Piki te Ora programme – enabling self-management
  • Family Planning provides a four-week sexual health and relationship programme
  • Jigsaw Whanganui provides a four-week parenting programme
  • Yoga Education in Prisons Trust provides a four-week yoga programme.
  • Whakawātea (healing) facilitated by Te Oranganui and Ti Hauora O Te Aroha Healing Centre.

Alongside these, Problem Gambling delivers one session on gambling education, and in collaboration with Ti Hauora O Te Aroha Healing Centre, the programme includes two sessions of Māori healing designed to help the men be open to learning – an initiative that’s been well received by them.

The Parole Board reports that most of the 18 graduates of the Te Tirohanga programme who have been released, were released in part because of the reports and relapse plans that the Te Tirohanga drug treatment programme provided.

Mr Wood says it hasn’t all been plain sailing. “We’ve encountered challenges along with successes and that’s to be expected,” he says. “But overall, the programme is well received by the men and the collaborative partners providing it have established a very good working relationship with the custodial staff and other programme providers in the unit. I’m sure this has been a big part in the programme’s success.”