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Heath's story

Heath* is a patient of Dr Niall Quiery at First Step. Heath had a colourful and varied professional life, though now at the age of 62 is facing a number of challenges relating to his mental health and many years of harmful drug use. Heath has early onset dementia, suffers from depression and anxiety, has now left the workforce and is very unlikely to be able to work again.

At the time he initially attended First Step, mid 2021, Heath had recently moved in with his father, Dean, who is in his 80s. Dean is devoted to his son but finds caring for him and helping to manage his affairs to be a great burden that is affecting his health too. To further complicate matters, Dean is also caring for his wife, Heath’s mother, who has liver cancer. Heath is very concerned about living on a pension, and even more anxious about his debts. His greatest desire at this stage is to “get on track financially and not be broke forever. Or too reliant on my dad.”

Heath was seeing Dr Quiery for support with his general health and addiction when Dr Quiery ascertained that Heath had considerable unpaid fines, primarily from driving on toll roads without registering his car appropriately.

Dr Quiery explained the Work and Development Permit (WDP)** program to Heath and his father; they could hardly believe what they were hearing, and they made an appointment with Stephanie Casey who helps administer the WDP at First Step*. Upon instigating Heath in the WDP program Stephanie discovered that Heath’s fines totalled $4,235. Heath and his father were both shocked and immediately became even more anxious about the debt. Heath expressed despair and anger, and a lack of desire to change his ways (i.e. to stop getting fines). When Dr Quiery and Stephanie both explained again how the WDP program works and that Heath could be debt free, he and his father calmed down and completed the registration process. In due course, with more counselling Heath made a commitment to not use the toll roads ever again.

That was in December of 2021. By May 2022, with assistance from his father to attend appointments with Dr Quiery and with the Cognitive Dementia And Mental Health Service (Eastern Health), Heath was not only progressing very well with treatment and support but was delighted some months ago to receive a certificate of completion from the WDP program. The ongoing elevation in mood resulting from this achievement was felt by Heath, his father and his mother. There are challenges ahead for them, but Heath and his family report feeling hopeful for the future now that Heath is getting the care he needs and has worked his way through the burden of debt.

March 2022 update: Heath continues to attend First Step and CDAMS and is not using drugs or alcohol, though we haven’t managed to get him off the cigarettes yet.


*Heath's name has been changed to protect his privacy

**The administration of the Work and Development Permit program is an unfunded role at First Step that we continue to run because of the great benefit to our clients. For more information on WDPs go to: