Meet Sally Whitelaw, Co-Chair for Midland Addiction Leadership Network

Regional stakeholders and representatives from across the five DHB areas are integral to the Midland MH&A team to gather multiple point of views, innovative ideas and feedback to develop and serve in the Addiction sector for Midland.  All our regional networks are led by the chairs that are nominated for a two year period and supported by the Midland MH&A team.

Sally Whitelaw is a Co-Chair of the Midland Addiction Leadership Network and has been on this network for a few years and has a history with the Addiction sector.  We asked her questions about her role as chair and commitment to the Addiction area.

Tell us a little about yourself and how did you first get involved in with Midland Addictions Leadership Network?

Sally is a DAPAANZ Registered Addiction Practitioner who started her career in the Addiction field working in a residential treatment facility in the Northern Territory, Australia. Sally moved from Australia to New Zealand in 2008 and since then has worked in Tauranga for the Salvation Army Addiction Service and for the past 9 years at the Bay of Plenty District Health Board. Sally is the Clinical Team Leader at the BOP Addiction Service and prior to this worked as the Addiction Service Clinical Lead for 3 years where she first became involved in the Midland Addiction Leadership Network. Sally recognises and celebrates the achievements of harm reduction in New Zealand and accepts the challenge to further lead and support harm reduction models of care.

What was your first impression of the regional network?

The regional addiction network is a friendly and encouraging group of dedicated professionals with a common interest in supporting Tangata Whaiora and Whãnau who experience the harmful effects of substance use. The network is welcoming and supports diversity amongst ourselves and our community. There is a true effort to strategically share skills, knowledge and expertise across the region. 

What do you find most challenging about regional issues for Addictions?

Current challenges would include:

Addressing the concerns that the Midland communities have voiced regarding access to services, responsiveness of services and shifting some focus to address the social and economic determinates of health which underpins for many people the, harms related to substance use. We must find new ways of working collectively to support and respond to the needs of our communities in way that is holistic and puts whãnau in the centre of all we do.

As chair of this network, what is your expectation from stakeholders on this group?

  • Support better outcomes for family whãnau
  • Supporting regional mental health and addiction planning
  • Supporting the achievement of health targets and policy priorities
  • Linking to national and regional groups and networks and enhance regional thinking.
  • Leading and/or supporting the development of nationally consistent approaches to mental health and addiction
  • Reducing inequalities in mental health and addiction outcomes
  • Bring and take back information to local Addictions Advisory

What would you like to say to family whãnau, whom you represent as a network and chair of the Midland Addiction Leadership Network?

I would start by acknowledging that addiction impacts not just on the individual but the whole family system, to the point that sometimes the family unit breaks down.

It is important that where ever possible whãnau have their say as part of all phases of care including  treatment planning, interventions and discharge / transition planning.

Where family / whãnau involvement is not possible it is pertinent that family members and significant others are able to access advice, assistance and support to assist with their own mental and emotional distress.

Finally I would say family members should be seen as people needing support for themselves in their own right, rather than solely supporters for family and whãnau with substance or gambling problems.

What is your favourite “words of wisdom”?

I would draw on the family values passed down to me of “treating others as you wish to be treated and be kind to one another”.


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