Case study: Ben

Ben is a 38 year old local Aboriginal man who is well known to the Criminal Justice System in Northern NSW. He has an extensive criminal record dating back to 1973 when at age 11 years, he was incarcerated on his first conviction. As an adult Ben has had 54 separate court appearances, most of them for multiple offences.

He has been incarcerated on ten occasions as an adult and sentenced to numerous other alternatives to full-time custody. Much of Ben's past criminal offending is related to substance abuse which in the last decade has been primarily heroin related.

Ben and his partner Sue, also a long-term heroin addict, were admitted to the treatment program following their arrest for breaking into a house. They were charged with offences of Break Enter & Steal and Possession of House Breaking Implements. Despite their significant addictions, they had maintained their relationship for some years though generally this had involved supporting each others drug abuse and criminal activities. Their relationship necessitated treating them separately whilst in the treatment program, without requiring them to cease their support for each other.

Ben's admission to the treatment program was problematic. He had not previously accessed drug and alcohol treatment services other than in gaol though many years ago he attended a residential treatment program. He is positive to hepatitis C and has had chronic back pain which he self medicated with heroin.

Ben continued to use heroin when he presented at the treatment program, turning up for appointments and groups in an intoxicated state. Typical of heroin users, he and his partner had largely destroyed all ability to attract emergency welfare assistance including housing assistance which was identified as a major issue in addressing their drug use. The treatment program was able to assist them in this regard.

Ben's treatment focused on residential detoxification and then assisting him to maintain stability either by abstinence or placing him on a prescribed pharmacotherapy program. The latter option was identified as the most desirable and a prescribing General Practitioner was located. Despite placement on the pharmacotherapy program Ben continued to use heroin, as confirmed by supervised urinalysis, and he failed to keep appointments with both his caseworker and the GP. However, caseworker persistence eventually paid off whereby constant chasing him up ensured that he complied with his program goals. Once on the pharmacotherapy program, he continued to use heroin for a brief period until an optimum treatment level was reached. It was then possible for him to commence making lifestyle changes to complement his new direction in life.

During his three months in the treatment program Ben did not commit any further offences. At their final court appearance Ben and Sue received good behaviour bonds after pleading guilty to their break-and-enter charges. At the time of preparing this case study, twenty one months after his program graduation, Ben had continued with the pharmacotherapy program, remained free of illicit drug use and has not been further charged with criminal offences. He has continued his relationship with his partner who has also remained drug and crime free.

Ben continues to maintain contact with the treatment program team.

Manager Treatment Program
North Coast (NSW)