Directions started as the Drug Referral and Information centre (DRIC) in 1973 when Sister Patricia Moriarty of the Little Company of Mary was granted a room at a local Technical College to provide information, support and referrals to students experiencing issues with their alcohol and/or other drug use. At this time there was no other service of this nature in Canberra. Upon her retirement, control was relinquished and DRIC became a community run organisation. From this time, the organisation received a small amount of funding through the government and was reliant on its board of management and volunteers to assist staff in running the day to day programs.
Over time the service grew to meet the demands of the community becoming an incorporated association in 1988 under the name Assisting Drug Dependents Incorporated. The following year, the organisation was funded to provide the first Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) in the ACT which it has has continued to run to the present day. This important harm reduction service contributes to the low rates of blood borne virus transmissions amongst Canberra’s injecting drug users.
The organisation then provided a sobering up shelter which was run in a house in Duntroon, a quiet suburb known for its military college and accommodation to the armed forces. The shelter was run for many years until an improved facility was provided through the Hennessey House Mental Health Facility on the grounds of Calvary Hospital in Bruce. The 10 bed residential detox centre became known as Arcadia House and has evolved over time to also include a 12 week transition program serving as a bridge for clients wishing to go on to rehabilitation, and an 8 week day program.
Throughout the 1990s, the service continued to run various other programs including a mobile NSP service known as the AIDS Bus, counselling and support services, a drop in life skills program and a late night drop in centre for people aged under 25yrs. Up until approximately 2001, the organisation did not have a recognisable identity other than individual program names with generic lettering and images used on entrance doors and letterheads. At this time, the organisation experienced its first attempt at rebranding. The new name of DIRECTIONS ACT, an acronym for Drug Information Referral Education Counselling Treatment Intervention Options Needle and syringe program and Service, was presented to staff at a strategic planning day by the Executive Director.
Directions have run the Althea Wellness Centre since 2009. The program provides a holistic approach to health care based on harm minimisation principles and specialises in medical issues relating to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. The Centre was conceived and established through the identified need to provide medical services to people who use alcohol and other drugs as many were avoiding treatment due to the associated stigma.
At present, Directions continues to provide four main service lines to individuals, families and friends experiencing issues relating to Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug use (ATOD), across seven locations in the ACT and Regional NSW. In the ACT our services include a Primary Health Clinic (Althea Wellness Centre), a Needle & Syringe Program, and the Arcadia House Detox, Transition and Day program. In the ACT and Regional NSW our services include Counselling, Case Management & Support Services as well as a series of Self Help Groups.