Fresh Start Newsletter

Click here to sign up to our publication mailing list

Fresh Start graduate completes university Law Honours

"Complacency has always been a stumbling block for me..."


The committed and brave life of Chris O'Donoghue illustrates the long, hard road a drug addict takes to drive out their cravings. In 2007 Chris arrived on Fresh Start’s doorstep in the depths of addiction, only recovering after three years of treatment. He went on to volunteer at Fresh Start and eventually became a paid employee. In 2010 he returned to his family and friends in Queensland. As Chris recounts,

“Complacency has always been a stumbling block for me”.

He relapsed into heroin, Suboxone and benzodiazepine use. Later that year Chris returned to Fresh Start, responding positively to the naltrexone treatment.

"Naltrexone helped me," Chris said. "But I never really addressed the reasons I was using, and I never committed to a program of recovery to complement the implant treatment.”

Recovering a second time, Chris returned to Queensland. Things went from good to bad to worse as he once more lapsed into Suboxone use. Then in April 2011 he was arrested for robbing a pharmacy to obtain more Suboxone. Chris was sentenced to five years in prison.

"It was a painful time. But, during this time I stayed close to God and he gave me a second chance, unlike a few of my mates. They say people on drugs either end up dead or in prison. I guess I got the prison option, my mates weren’t so lucky....”

A reformed Chris was released from prison 14 months into his sentence. He moved to Bundaberg, joined a church group, made good friends and found love. Chris became a community volunteer and worked non-stop during the devastating Bundaberg floods of 2013.

In 2014 Chris completed a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. He was invited to enrol in the Griffith University criminology honours college a year later where he graduated with honours. But two decades of drug abuse, re-lapses and a term in prison took a personal toll as his partner left him. Again Chris fought back, entering the Salvation Army program in May 2016. He recently completed the transition phase. Chris has become involved with the local Southport Salvation Army Temple Corps, and is a volunteer bus driver taking people to detox to start their recovery program. As a peer support worker, Chris offers his experience, strength and hope to those battling addiction. He’s also established a relationship with the Australian Anti Ice Campaign (AAIC) raising funds to educate teenagers about Ice addiction.

Chris is actively involved in several 12 step programs around the Gold Coast.

''What I hear and see there gives me hope for the future, and it also reminds me not to become complacent again."

Chris now lives on the Gold Coast and has a good relationship with his family and friends.

2016 - 2017 Hepatitis Clinic Highlights

The past 12 months has been a very exciting time for our Hepatitis Clinic and we have successfully treated over 100 patients for Hepatitis C with the newly released, directly acting anti-viral tablets that are both well tolerated and highly effective. Dr Wendy Lawrence and specialist Hepatitis nurse Julie Stove work closely to provide the clinical support needed by the 55 people currently in treatment.

Streamlined services to clients offer:

Photo of Julie Dr Wendy Lawrence

  • Fast access to diagnosis and treatment for Hepatitis B and/or C
  • A specialist Hepatitis GP clinic, every Tuesday
  • Holistic support including counselling, mental health and general nursing
  • Rapid support by the specialist Hepatology Department at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital for clients who may have more complex treatment requirements
  • Vaccination for Hepatitis A and B if required
  • Education of Hepatitis B and C for clients, their partners and families
  • Liaise with outlying GP’s and pharmacies to provide back-up support for all patients during treatment for either Hepatitis B or C.
  • Hepatitis B
    • Treatment initiation and ongoing maintenance
    • Regular monitoring with blood tests and ultrasounds every six-months
    • Vaccination if not already immune or infected with the virus.
  • Hepatitis C
    • Less treatment visits and blood tests are now required
    • Shorter treatment duration – Often only 12 weeks
    • Over 95% cure rate
    • Follow-up monitoring for those with more complex liver disease post treatment

If you have concerns about Hepatitis, please ring the specialist Hepatitis Nurse at Fresh Start on 9381 1333 to organise a consultation. 

UWA clinical trial on Fresh Start's promising new Smoking Cessation Spray

The University of Western Australia is part-way through a clinical trial, testing a new Smoking Cessation Spray invented by Dr George O’Neil. A preliminary study involving ten Fresh Start clients indicated that the spray significantly reduces anxiety and the urge to smoke. These initial findings were promising enough to initiate a larger, randomized placebo-controlled trial.

Early participants in the trial have commented that “Using the active spray I felt much more chilled and didn’t even feel like having a cigarette” and “Since participating in the trial I feel way more confident about quitting smoking”.

The nasal Smoking Cessation Spray provides anti-craving effects and may reduce anxiety. Cravings and anxiety are prominent cigarette withdrawal symptoms, typically occurring within an hour of the last cigarette. The Smoking Cessation Spray can be used whenever these symptoms occur, providing relief within one to two minutes. 

Admission to the Northam Recovery Program

At Fresh Start we recommend that our clients participate in a Rehabilitation Program after treatment. It removes those struggling with addiction from their old ways of life and places them into a facility that offers 24/7 care. In-house recovery programs help to eliminate stress by removing the individual from temptation and reducing the chance of relapse.

Northam Recovery Program (NRP) offers a comprehensive residential program focused on men’s recovery. Residents will begin their journey at Northam Recovery Centre until they are able to graduate to The Hill a farm based centre 8kms from Northam. Both have the same core program with differing activities and responsibilities.

This year alone we have had 65 new admissions to Northam.

When a potential client is interested in Northam they will have the opportunity to meet our Recovery Co-ordinator and discuss any queries or questions they may have. Patients will receive an information brochure and some basic information about the program. A weekly outreach program is also held at the clinic for potential residents and former clients wanting to return to Northam.

Following the naltrexone implant treatment patients will need to complete the following steps before progressing to Northam:

  • Northam Admission Application
  • Medical Assessment with our Doctors
  • Suitability Assessment with our Counsellors
  • Must have a Mental Health Care Plan
  • Urine drug screen test
  • Any court paperwork must be provided
  • NRP Rent Paperwork (Centrelink set up)
  • First 2 weeks rent paid upfront

Once all stages of the process are completed clients are able to make the transition to Northam, where the next part of their recovery journey begins.


IMG 7922

A Message from the CEO

On 16th June, Fresh Start will celebrate 20 years of helping families with addictions. What Dr George O’Neil began in 1997 as a specialised service to mothers and babies struggling with addiction to heroin and methadone has grown steadily and now looks after more than 1000 men and women every year. We currently provide care and treatment for opiate, amphetamine, benzodiazepine and alcohol addictions. To date more than 11,000 people have been helped by Fresh Start in Subiaco.

The story of Chris’s struggle with addiction and the long road to recovery exemplifies the courage needed to win the battle. I am continually reminded of the value of persistence when the subject of any particular patient's journey to recovery from addiction comes up in discussion. While each struggle is unique, behind every success is a story of sheer will and determination to succeed no matter how painful or costly the journey. At Fresh Start we have seen many such examples of people who have succeeded in overcoming their addiction and go on to lead useful, productive and fulfilling lives. Their stories are inspiring and their courage to attempt the journey keeps us focussed on our mission to help families with addiction.

The struggle to achieve recognition of the development of the long acting implant here in Australia is likewise inspiring. The ethical imperative to continue with a treatment that has proven to be so successful for thousands of patients while at the same time working through the maze of regulatory requirements surrounding the development and registration of a new pharmaceutical product has been a potentially crushing load. It is remarkable that the relatively small production team of researchers and developers based here in Subiaco is now in the final stages of trial work and production testing. The end goal of full registration now in sight though it could be said that the hardest tasks are still ahead.

Meanwhile the seemingly never-ending stream of new patients wanting to be free from their addictions continues to flood through the clinic doors. Your help every day by volunteering or donating to Fresh start is needed now, more than ever.

Please call the Clinic on 93811333 if you are able to give of your time. We need volunteer Doctors, Nurses, drivers and carers.

If you are able to help with a donation please go to our website and make your tax deductible contribution today.

Jeff Claughton CEO