QUES­TIONS OVER SHALOM HOUSE

Eastern Reporter - - Front Page - Sarah Brookes

THE mother of a res­i­dent at a strict faith-based re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre has raised con­cerns with se­nior govern­ment min­is­ters over claims of a “cult-like” ap­proach by Shalom House.

Michelle (not her real name) has writ­ten to se­nior govern­ment min­is­ters, in­clud­ing Health Min­is­ter Roger Cook, rais­ing her con­cerns.

THE mother of a res­i­dent at a strict, faith-based re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre has raised con­cerns with se­nior govern­ment min­is­ters over claims of a “cult-like” ap­proach by Shalom House.

Michelle (not her real name) said de­spite be­ing nom­i­nated by her son to be in­volved with his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, she had had no con­tact with him since he en­tered the Swan Val­ley fa­cil­ity for de­pres­sion in Novem­ber 2017.

“It wasn’t un­til my son went into this fa­cil­ity, un­be­known to me, that I started to delve deeper into the na­ture of this fa­cil­ity,” she said. “As shown on TV, the founder of Shalom House, Peter Lyn­don-James, is an ex-drug ad­dict, dealer and crim­i­nal.

“Now a born-again Chris­tian, he has cre­ated a pro­gram based on his own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, whereby treat­ment is based on re­li­gion.

“Since my son went in there he has be­come a ‘miss­ing per­son’ to his fam­ily, (since) I raised con­cerns about what qual­i­fi­ca­tions Mr Lyn­don-James and his staff have to treat peo­ple with men­tal health con­di­tions.”

Shalom House’s home­page states they work closely with res­i­dents’ fam­i­lies to re­store all re­la­tion­ships.

“We of­ten have to say that for a short pe­riod of time there is no con­tact so that the in­di­vid­ual has time to work on them­selves be­fore re­unit­ing with fam­ily,” it said.

“Most of the time it is no longer than a few weeks.”

How­ever, Mr Lyn­donJames said Michelle and her son had not been re­united due to the “un­healthy na­ture” of their re­la­tion­ship.

“We have been ad­vised by both the son and his psy­chi­a­trist that it would be pre­ma­ture to reunite them,” he said. “The psy­chi­a­trist is work­ing with the son to get clo­sure and heal­ing, to help him get ready to con­front the is­sue in their re­la­tion­ship.”

Curtin Univer­sity’s Na­tional Drug Re­search In­sti­tute pro­fes­sor Ni­cole Lee said in­volve­ment of fam­i­lies is gen­er­ally “ex­tremely im­por­tant” in treat­ment.

“We know it im­proves out­comes of the per­son in treat­ment and fam­i­lies also need sup­port,” Pro­fes­sor Lee said. “They are of­ten the main sup­port post-treat­ment and play an im­por­tant role in pre­vent­ing re­lapse.”

Michelle said she sup­ported re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion be­ing avail­able to help peo­ple re­cover and lead pos­i­tive lives but was wor­ried about her son’s well­be­ing at the fa­cil­ity.

“I be­lieve my son went into the pro­gram when he was at a low point,” she said.

“(My son) has al­ready lost a year of his life when he should be play­ing footy and go­ing out with his mates.”

Michelle claimed Mr Lyn­don-James shows some traits of a self­styled guru with his self­pro­mo­tion and gath­er­ing of sup­port­ers and pub­lic sym­pa­thy, which she said cre­ates a “cult-like” ap­proach by Shalom House.

“Crit­ics of Mr Lyn­donJames are shot down by the fre­netic sup­port he has built up in the com­mu­nity and any neg­a­tive sto­ries are ig­nored,” she said.

Michelle said she be­lieved there were enough con­cerns to war­rant health au­thor­i­ties ask­ing ques­tions.

“Shalom House is not an ac­cred­ited cen­tre and some health pro­fes­sion­als are crit­i­cal of its prac­tices and ap­proach to treat­ing drug ad­dic­tion and other be­havioural prob­lems,” she said. “Shalom’s suc­cesses are all hearsay be­cause there is no data to say whether it has sig­nif­i­cant or long-term suc­cess.”

Mr Lyn­don-James said Shalom House had mul­ti­ple lev­els of con­sul­ta­tion.

“When a res­i­dent first en­ters the pro­gram, they are booked in to see a GP and where nec­es­sary, the GP will re­fer the res­i­dent to our clin­i­cal psy­chi­a­trist for fur­ther as­sess­ment and ongoing treat­ment,” he said.

“In these cases, we work strictly un­der the guid­ance of the psy­chi­a­trist.

“Cer­tain men­tal health is­sues are be­yond our abil­ity to as­sist, such as schizophre­nia.

“This is some­thing that we vet dur­ing the in­take process over the phone and if the per­son is di­ag­nosed with this, we bring the process to a close, ad­vise them we aren’t able to as­sist and to see a health pro­fes­sional who will be able to give them fur­ther ad­vice.”

In re­sponse to the con­cerns raised by Michelle, the WA Health Depart­ment’s Li­cens­ing and Ac­cred­i­ta­tion Reg­u­la­tory Unit (LARU) in­quired into the ser­vices pro­vided at Shalom House to de­ter­mine whether the fa­cil­ity should be li­censed.

“In re­sponse to LARU’s in­quiries, the bar­ris­ters and solic­i­tors act­ing on be­half of the own­ers of Shalom House have ad­vised that none of the premises fall within the def­i­ni­tion of a pri­vate psy­chi­atric hos­tel,” the Health Min­is­ter’s of­fice told Michelle in re­sponse to her com­plaint.

A Depart­ment of Health spokes­woman said LARU was sat­is­fied with the le­gal ad­vice.

Shalom House houses about 140 men across 14 prop­er­ties.

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