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Health Resources

This section contains information on

  • Suggestions for new Regional or Intergroup HLOs 
  • Ideas for Health Activity
  • Experience of starting as an HLO
  • Health Materials
  • Talks and Presentations
  • Description of and templates for Open Meeting Workshops
  • File Store

Suggestions for new Intergroup Health Liaison Officers 

Notify GSO that you have been elected to the post by email to gso@alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk. Ensure your local telephone service has your contact details, should a Health Liaison enquiry come in. Ask your Intergroup ECLO to set up an AA email address.

Talk to the outgoing or a previous HLO about what Health Liaison work has been performed in your Intergroup before you were appointed to the post. Hopefully the outgoing or previous HLO will be able to carry out a full handover, including records of the work performed, contacts, and resources.

If there has been no Intergroup HLO in post for some time, try to talk to previous Intergroup HLOs and/or the Intergroup Chair, who should know about any Health Liaison work carried out by Public Information or other officers in the absence of an HLO. If possible ask a member with experience of service with professionals to sponsor you in this service.

Get to know who else is in service in your Intergroup, in particular the PILO and the other external liaison officers, who may already have a local PI Committee which you can join.  Contact the Regional HLO who will be able to give practical advice, and contacts in neighbouring Intergroups.

Familiarity with the whole of The AA Service Handbook for Great Britain and The AA Structure Handbook for Great Britain is advised. HLOs will be particularly interested in the Service Handbook Chapter Six AA and Healthcare in the Community and in Chapter One Public Information (Both handbooks can be obtained free from GSO).

Attend Intergroup meetings and report on health activity. Send these reports to the Regional HLO.

Attend any workshops at Region where the Regional HLO will introduce you to other Intergroup HLOs. These meetings are useful for sharing ideas and experience, and for coordinating activities.

Be prepared to attend the Health Seminar at GSO in York (held every three years).

Draw up a plan for actively carrying the message to relevant organisations within the Intergroup area (see ideas for health activity). Start with simple ideas for activity and build up from them, and the initial contacts you make. 

If you are not sure where to start, ask for help, from current or former HLOs and PILOs in your or other Intergroups, from the Chair of your Intergroup, from the Regional HLO, from the HSC member who serves your Region who can be contacted via trustee.midlandsregion@gsogb.org.uk, or from the Trustee for Health. Whatever problem you are having, someone else has likely encountered it and would be happy to share how they found a way around it. Be aware that Health Liaison work like all liaison work within AA requires a team effort involving other members and disciplines. Wherever possible, invite other members to get involved in health liaison activities with you. They might appreciate an opportunity to participate in primary-purpose outreach service.

Suggestions for new Regional Health Liaison Officers

Gather details of all Intergroup HLOs within your Region and keep in regular contact with them. Help organize regular meetings of Intergroup HLOs where they can share experience and exchange ideas for future activity

Attend Regional meetings, workshops and the Annual Regional Liaison Health Seminar at York.

Collate Intergroup reports into a report on Health activity in the Region. Send a copy of the report to the Regional secretary, Health Sub-committee contact and Intergroup HLOs.

Be willing to visit Intergroups to help sponsor Intergroup HLOs into their role and be involved in workshops on Health if required.

Take part in other events as appropriate. Join or establish a Regional PI/Health committee. It is much more effective and enjoyable to work as part of a team. Once you have started to make contacts, use them to network and find other opportunities.

Ideas for Health Activity

There have been many changes in the NHS, and in the provision of mental health and substance misuse services over the last few years. Our simple message remains the same whether we are delivering it directly to a patient, or to a professional in the hope that it will be passed on to problem drinkers in the future. 

This list of potential activities is not intended to be exhaustive, but some thoughts on how to move towards achieving our primary purpose.

Perhaps start by investigating and listing potential healthcare contacts in your area. Hospitals, medical centres, treatment centres, mental health charities, surgeries, medical training establishments, local authority health and wellbeing and any other healthcare establishment where a health professional may come into contact with a problem drinker.

  • Provide stands at local events
  • Invite/accompany professionals to open AA meetings
  • Give talks to groups of professionals
  • Develop contact with medical training facilities with the objective of including Open Meeting Workshops in their curriculum
  • Work with hospitals/treatment centres for problem drinkers 

Hospitals/Treatment Centres: Look for opportunities to display AA literature, asking for permission first. Find out if there is an Alcohol Liaison Nurse, try to contact them directly to see what help they might require. Investigate the opportunity to help with staff or student training. Try to get a local group to develop a good working relationship with the hospital/rehab. If there is no AA meeting in the hospital, look into the possibility of helping to start one up.

Perhaps you could set up set up a temporary contact program for potential newcomers in rehabs or hospitals. When a problem drinker leaves a rehab or hospital attending an AA meeting can be a daunting proposition – even for those who have been to meetings in the facility. This is a critical point on the road to recovery and many fail to negotiate it. A temporary contact program, like the Bridging Gap Program in the USA, addresses this problem. A temporary contact is an AA member who the individual can talk to while they are still in the treatment facility or hospital. When they leave the temporary contact can help them join meetings and introduce them to other members.

We suggest that temporary contacts should have at least one year’s sobriety and experience of basic Twelve-Stepping work. It is best that Twelve-Stepping guidelines are observed, two members meeting the newcomer, males meeting males, females meeting females. Create a list of volunteers and their contact details. Make this list available to your contacts at treatment facilities and hospitals in your area. The list may also be useful to HLOs liaising with a facility in another location where potential newcomer from your area is a patient. 

GP surgeries and Health Centres: Look for opportunities to display AA posters and literature, talk to the Practice Manager first to obtain their support. There may be a central distribution point for sending information out to GPs, Health Centres and pharmacies. Try to ensure staff have a supply of contact cards with the helpline number. Local meeting lists may also be useful. Talk to your own GP about how AA has helped you, and how you would like to help others. Offer to arrange a speaker for training days to explain how AA works. Try to make contact with local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to see if there are opportunities to offer talks or Open Meeting Workshops, or to carry the message in other ways.

Other possible contacts: May include Alcohol Forums, Alcohol Support Services, Alcohol Problems Advisory Services, Drug and Alcohol Action Teams (DAATs), Alcohol and Drug Partnerships in Scotland, Social Work departments, Treatment centres, Rehabilitation and Substance Misuse Teams, mental health charities and various other alcohol awareness projects. It also may be worth researching Psychiatric Day Hospitals/Centres, Home detoxification services, Clinics, Dentists, Community Health Centres/projects and Pharmacies.

Many educational establishments that deal with health education would appreciate talks or Open Meeting Workshops (see separate section) from AA members to their students. These include Universities, Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Paramedic Practice, Health Scientists, Colleges with Health and Social Care departments or those that run Counselling Courses, local Health Initiatives run by CCGs or DAATs/ADPs, and GP Vocational Training Scheme programs. We suggest working with other liaison officers when developing this type of opportunity.

Experience of starting as an HLO

My name is Jane and I am both HLO for my local Intergroup and Regional HLO supporting 8 other Intergroup HLOs. 

I really walked into the Region role initially as the vacancy was announced at the Region meeting -  Is anyone available to take up the post, and the silence echoed around the room.

I have always worked within the Health care system but had avoided service related to it, as it was a little too close to home. That silence in the meeting, created space to think and I realised I had no real reason to say no and that was that. Picking up the Intergroup role at the same time made complete sense as I could not really offer wider Regional support if I had not created a local role and understood what does and does not work.

I treated both roles very much like getting sober. I reached out for help; spoke with others who had done it before, no matter where; read what was suggested and shared honestly. Fellowship and connection with others in a similar situation has proved invaluable. This is at all levels and in all disciplines of the fellowship as health touches on so many of the other disciplines including PI and Employment.

I offer one slight warning. For me working within the NHS system offered an artificial confidence which actually got in my way. I made presumptions about understanding the ways of working and the role I could play in supporting AA and the message. This I constantly had to park. My presumptions stopped me being curious as I thought I had the answers and curiosity is where the real learning is. Now I go into every Health Service session with a clearer understanding of the hat I have on. I am there as a recovering alcoholic to help share the message of AA. How that message is perceived is not within my gift.  

My advice is to be brave and give it a go. You are your own message of recovery with the fellowship behind you and truth to guide you. I have made some mistakes, had some rich emotional successes and developed real friendships. What do you have to lose. Give it a go.

My name is Robin, and in the last ten years I have worked in Health at Intergroup, Region and on the Health Sub-committee. I first got involved on the fringe of PI work some years ago helping Intergroup officers with various activities. One of these was covering a stand at Crawley Hospital and at the end of the event the lady I was with asked me is there any reason why you could not take on the job of HLO at Intergroup. I answered give me 24 hours and I will come back to you, calculating that I would be able to think of that reason. I could not ....so I got the job!

I was initially hesitant because of my perception of the scale of the task, my lack of any knowledge of the health service, and uncertainty about where to start. The bit of advice that got me going was if in the next three years you talk to one medical professional who talks to one problem drinker who attends one AA meeting you will have been a success. My fear about lack of knowledge of medical matters and structures was drastically reduced when it was pointed out that I had lived experience of the problem, was an expert on our message and that was all I really needed. 

The next and possibly the most important advice I picked up on was not to try and work alone. The Intergroup PI officer (the lady who got me into it in the first place) and I formed a PI team and our first presentations were to three mental health charities and the Samaritans. When we had finished these we were up and running and have now made presentations and conducted Open Meeting Workshops with many medical professionals. Along the way I have been privileged to work with some brilliant people, and have a lot of fun.

Health Materials

When we carry the AA message to healthcare professionals we should be conscious of the audience. (First year medical students will have different experiences of problem drinkers to those of practicing paramedics). As we are working with professionals we should always aim to give a structured and practised presentation.

There is significant experience amongst AA members of successfully working with healthcare professionals. Some of these activities have been shared and are available in the Document Library and File Store. They include videos, Powerpoint presentations, documents, press releases and articles by Non-Alcoholic Trustees.

These resources may not fit your requirements exactly but may form a basis that you can build upon. If members produce material which they feel has been successful please send any resources/documents produced to the Health Sub Committee at trustee.midlandsregion@gsogb.org.uk so we can share your experience.

Literature available from GSO which may be particularly relevant to HLOs.

  • Health video
  • AA Service Handbook
  • A newcomer asks
  • Is AA for you?
  • 2015 Membership Survey
  • A brief guide to Alcoholics Anonymous
  • How AA Members Cooperate with Professionals
  • Speaking at Non AA Meetings
  • The AA Member, Medication and other Drugs
  • A message for professionals
  • Understanding Anonymity

Papers by Non-Alcoholic Trustees (in Document Library/PI/PI Liaison Officers Press Pack)

  • Dr Jaqueline Chang  
  • Dr Louise Foxcroft 
  • Paul Miles
  • Dr Ash Kahn Consultant Psychiatrist
  • Martin Weegman Clinical Psychologist
  • Professor Jonathan Chick
  • Mani Mehdikhani Clinical Psychologist

Draft letters can be found in the document library health section

Talks and Presentations

Presentations: Sample Powerpoint presentations can be found in File store.

Stands at Events: GSO can provided you with AA literature and help source an AA Stand. An AA pull-up banner makes things look professional. Arrive early to set up and enlist help to keep the stand manned throughout the day. Have a simple form available for enquiries so contact details can be passed on to the relevant Intergroup/Region to follow up. Bowls of sweets on the table can be a good ice-breaker.

Open Meeting Workshops

Taken from a presentation to RHLO Meeting York 24.03.18 Open Meeting Workshops in the SE Region

Where did the concept originate The initial concept was publicised in a 2007 Article in About AA US Newsletter for Professionals concerning a training program for Doctors in New York City, which paired first year medical students with AA members. This idea was taken forward by the Netherlands Intergroup who wished to take mental health nurses to an open meeting. One of the nurses suggested bringing the meeting to the nurses institute and in Utrecht January 2015 they held what they called a Masterclass for Mental Health Nurses. Since 2014 we have adopted and developed these original ideas.

What interested us in the concept In 2014 one of our Intergroup HLOs contacted 92 surgeries by letter and follow up call, and eventually got in front of about 9. Some doctors were engaged, some were not. It was lots of work for limited gain. The concept of taking an Open Meeting to groups of professionals looked much more effective. 

How did we get started in the SE Region We held our first OMW in June 2015 at Mill View Hospital Hove with Dr Sarah Flowers, and subsequently we have been invited to hold a regular session twice every year. By developing contacts other regular sessions have been established at the School of Health Sciences at University of Brighton (Eastbourne and Brighton), the University of Surrey in Guildford, University of London at St Georges Hospital,  and Brighton & Sussex Medical School (separate sessions for Paramedics, Nurses and trainee doctors). Annual workshops are also held for local GP Vocational Training Schemes. Workshops have also been run for Pavilions D & A Service, Bromley GPs and Worthing Town Hall. The Worthing event was significant as it was carried out outside of a medical/educational environment. The open meeting was the centrepiece of a PI event attended by mental health charities, substance misuse services, police, nurses and local government officers.

 We will have now held thirty-eight two or three hour workshops since we started and reached an audience of over 1700 medical professionals. Our simple objective is to make these professionals more aware of and confident in AA, and thus prepared to positively recommend AA to problem drinkers with whom they come into contact.

These sessions have had the spin off benefit of involving over one hundred different members many of whom were new to service outside their group.

Members Involvement: Experience has shown us that a team of five or six members with a good gender/age/length of sobriety mix is ideal. At first the OMW concept can seem daunting, but in practice is familiar.

How to get the opportunity: Because of the time and size of audience ideally required we have started off by targeting medical training establishments. Personal introduction has proved the most successful contact method.

The concept will work in any situation where we can gather together a group of interested professionals for two or three hours in a suitable environment.

If we are structured in our approach and delivery an OMW can be seen as a reliable/different way of filling a slot in the curriculum of any educational establishment.

Tools: We have developed a set of tools to help run the meetings which can be found in the Health Section of the File Store. These include an introductory letter to interested professionals, members briefing, session plan, introductory presentation and evaluation handout. 

At the start of session as an ice breaker we ask the audience for the first word that comes into their minds when they hear the word Alcoholic, and then again for AA.The responses are written on a flip chart for reference later

Health file store

The Health Sub-committee has developed a file store for use by all AA members who have service positions in the health discipline. The file store contains an array of useful information such as Intergroup and Region reports to the health sub-committee as supplied by HLOs (stored by date/Region/Intergroup). Presentations in Powerpoint format which may be adapted for local use when presenting to healthcare professionals Information on how to run an Open Meeting Workshop which may be adapted for local use. Health Sub-committee procedural documents such as job descriptions and terms of reference

Our file store is available to members and can be accessed by applying through the Helpdesk. You will need to explain the reason you need access to the file store, which could be that you are a new or current HLO. You will also need to confirm which Intergroup or Region you represent. You should then be sent details on how to gain access, and a password. 

Our objective is to keep the store 'live' by including submissions from HLOs whenever possible. For example copies of letters, presentations, literature or other materials which may have been especially useful in one area and which can then assist other members to use similar material. Please send any contributions you feel would be useful to your Regional HLO. The information can then be sent to the Health Sub-committee and onto the File Store