Regional Forum on Drug Addiction and Recovery

With over 240 member organisations World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD) organises a World Forum Against Drugs every two years and hosts regional conferences together with members throughout the year. The regional Forums against Drugs are hosted in strategic location throughout the world. This year, Belgrade, Serbia has been selected to host the First Regional Forum on Drug Addiction and Recovery for the Balkan region, to be held in Belgrade, Serbia, 19 – 20 of November 2019. The Forum is being organised as part of the ongoing regional project which is a joint cooperation between World Federation Against Drugs and three leading Civil Society organisations in the Balkan region: Izlazak, Celebrate Recovery and Preporod. The three organisation are working within the recovery field and providing support services to active users, individuals in recovery and members of their families, and they are actively involved in shaping drug policies in their countries.

The Forum will focus on Drug Addiction and Recovery within the Balkan region, bringing together representatives of civil society and local authorities. During a two-day Forum, participants are welcomed to a mixture of speeches, testimonies and workshops highlighting the main theme which are addiction and recovery, but will, among other, cover areas such as prevention, the legal status and decriminalization of cannabis and many other. The Forum will further present the results of joint project entitled “Choose Recovery” in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia.

With knowledge of your excellent work, organisers extend a formal invitation for participation in the Regional Forum. The hosts will cover accommodations.

More information and updates are available on the following link http://forum.biramoporavak.com/ (only in local languages).

A publication about our project

In the last decade, an increasing number of donors are withdrawing their support for healthcare. This has been especially true for middle-income countries, where the growth of domestic resources was one of the triggers for donor funding reduction. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund) has termed this process as “transition”.

In 2018 the Open Society Foundations, through the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA), initiated the project Budget Advocacy and Monitoring in countries of South East Europe. It provided funding to three transitioning countries in the Balkan region – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia – through the sub-regional network organization, Drug Policy Network South East Europe (DPNSEE), to support budget advocacy for harm reduction services. The local coordinating organisations are Margina, Juventas and Prevent.

The case study looks at the implementation of this project as one of the demonstrations of the SBF mechanism, with the objectives to:

  • Document the pilot in 3 Balkan countries and to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of this approach and to develop suggestions for improvement; and,
  • Document the results, successes, and challenges of the budget advocacy projects supported through this approach.

Our project serves as a pilot for the Sustainability Bridge Funding (SBF), an idea that has been discussed among donors and civil society organizations as a way of mitigating the negative effects of transition and in providing support for key essential services for communities and key populations. As a safety net mechanism, it should respond to gaps in funding and mitigate adverse effects of donor funding withdrawal.

Please find the document following this link>>>

Radian – a new fund to meaningfully address new HIV infections

To address the challenges in EECA and ensure no one is left behind in the global effort to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Elton John AIDS Foundation and Gilead Sciences have partnered together in a ground-breaking initiative called RADIAN. RADIAN aims to meaningfully address new HIV infections and deaths from AIDS related illnesses in EECA through focussed action, investment and resourcing to improve the quality of prevention and care for people at risk of or living with HIV in the region.

The RADIAN ‘Unmet Need’ fund will support local initiatives across the EECA region. Initiatives selected will focus on prevention and care, education, community empowerment, and novel partnerships. The programme will be implemented locally, working with key stakeholders and partners.

The grant will support two grant types:

  • Breaking barriers: Innovating healthcare delivery
  • Building bridges: Community involvement and education

The Fund is welcoming concept notes for evidence-informed solutions implementing in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, or Uzbekistan. The Fund welcomes concept notes for multi-country projects.

The projects should last under 36 months. Applications are accepted until 15 December 2019. Projects are expected to start from July 2020.

More about the grant is available following this link >>>

Too bad politics and prejudice keep getting in the way

Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

DPNSEE Board member Marios Atzemis contributed to the article

“We know how to end AIDS”, published by Politico

Greece was never known for the quality of its health system. But in 2009, at least among drug users, HIV was not a major threat – just 15 were diagnosed with the virus that year.

Then came the financial crisis and the harsh austerity that followed. In 2011, another 256 drug users learned they had HIV. In 2012, the number was 484. The reason for the explosion: the Greek financial crisis and the harsh austerity measures that followed.

Marios Atzemis was one of the Greek drug users diagnosed with HIV in 2011. He had been addicted to heroin and a regular in Athens’ open-air drug markets well before the crisis. Then in 2010, street services to help drug users stay safe lost a third of their funding. Atzemis stopped seeing the vans that used to distribute fresh syringes, even as new users were entering the scene, shooting newer, cheaper drugs.

As a community of drug users, we didn’t have an effective means of defense,” said Atzemis, now a harm-reduction coordinator with the Association of People Living with HIV Greece Positive Voice) “It was very easy for us to be targeted and to be scapegoats.”

The doctor refused to put him on anti-AIDS antiretroviral medication until he got clean at a rehab clinic – even though the clinic was on the brink of being shut down for lack of funding.

For Atzemis, now 44, this was enough motivation to wean himself off the drugs. “It didn’t work the same for other people,” he said.

For better or worse, Greece shows that a country doesn’t need to fix its entire health system to deal with HIV. As a case in point, its progress on AIDS hasn’t translated into progress on correlated problems like hepatitis C. Those rates rose during the debt crisis and haven’t ebbed much; based on 2017 data, around 62 percent of drug users in Greece have tested positive for hepatitis C.

The crisis-era HIV outbreak marked “the first time that all the stakeholders – NGOs, state structures, every single one – worked together to face this epidemic,” said Atzemis. “And probably the last time.”

To read full article, follow this link>>>

Ninth European drugs summer school

The University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE-IUL) and the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) will be joining forces once again next summer to hold the ninth European drugs summer school (EDSS) on ‘Illicit drugs in Europe: demand, supply and public policies’. Registration is now open for the two-week course, which will take place in the Portuguese capital from 29 June to 10 July.

Through a multidisciplinary and interactive approach to the drugs problem, EMCDDA scientific experts, leading academics, guest speakers, policymakers and professionals having participated in previous rounds of the EDSS, will prepare participants to meet the complex policy challenges in this field – both in Europe and beyond. The focus of the 2020 course will be hepatitis C.

Week 1 of the summer school, focusing on the ‘Drugs problem: substance use and problems, substance characteristics, and market’, will feature lectures on: the global burden of drug-related problems; drug markets in Europe; detecting new drugs; and prevention approaches in demand-reduction interventions. This session will also focus on the EMCDDA’s epidemiological indicators and their use in informing drug policy.

Week 2, dedicated to ‘Policymaking for drug-related issues’, will include lectures on: drug policies and new challenges (concepts, issues and analysis); the use of evidence to inform decision making; drug laws; and monitoring supply reduction and drug enforcement activity. It will also include group discussion exercises on how to use the knowledge acquired during the course, to sustain drug-related debates. Finally, students will be guided through an analysis of the link between evidence and decision-making, including examples of implementation.

Study visits to outreach facilities and to one of the Portuguese commissions for dissuasion will be organised over the two weeks. During the course, students will also participate in interactive workshops to discuss their own projects and views. The course will conclude with an open debate with guest speakers.

The target audiences for the EDSS are: university students, researchers, professionals and administrators interested in working on drug issues. The previous rounds of the summer school brought together students from the EU Member States as well as from Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

In 2020, students will again be able to apply for scholarships and ‘early-bird’ reductions are also available.

Information and registration is available following this link>>>

Have a look at the promotional video of the European drugs summer school below

Record seizures hit synthetic drugs during Europol action

Between 16 and 20 September and on the 25 September, Europol coordinated the EMPACT large-scale Joint Action Days 2019. The actions targeted synthetic drugs and new psychoactive substances and human trafficking, migrant smuggling, document fraud and environmental crime and involved law enforcement authorities from EU Member States, third-party countries and EU bodies.

Joint efforts of 16 Member States, led by the Polish Central Bureau of Investigation have targeted drug traffickers across Europe. These activities brought in an important hit on drug trafficking networks pulling drugs worth more than €85 million out of the illegal market. As an example, 11.3 tonnes of MAPA pre-precursor were seized, disrupting the consequent production of amphetamines. Depending on production methods, this quantity of pre-precursors would have been enough to produce 6.3 tonnes of amphetamine worth nearly €63 million on the European market. This, added to the drugs worth €85 million seized, represents a serious hit against the European drug market.

Other major seizures of narcotics within the drug trafficking hit include:

  • 1 300 kg of cocaine;
  • 22 kg and 1 107 cannabis plants;
  • 19 601 ecstasy pills;
  • 63 kg of amphetamine;
  • 6 kg of MDMA

The overall results from all actions targeting drug and human trafficking, migrant smuggling and environmental crime include:

  • 411 arrests;
  • 54 potential victims of human trafficking identified;
  • 1 million cigarettes and 1 223 kg of tobacco seized;
  • 374 new investigations initiated;
  • 37 000+ law enforcement officers participating;
  • 475 000+ checks of persons (250 000+), means of transportation, postal packages, houses and warehouses;
  • 166 wildlife species seized;
  • 2 471 kg of illegal fisheries.

As the European hub for law enforcement cooperation, Europol coordinated the 2019 large-scale Joint Action Days and supported the operational activities with secure information exchange, cross-checking of data against Europol’s databases and operational analysis, as well as on-the-spot operational support.

The latest action days, JAD Danube 4 and JAD Western Balkans together resulted in 301 arrests and multiple seizures, including 163 forged or falsified documents, 57 weapons and firearms and more than 900 pieces of ammunition.

Correlation Focal points and expert group meeting

The Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network held its Focal point and expert group meeting from 2 to 4 October 2019 in Helsinki. The meeting gathered 60 participants from 31 countries and territories. Among them, DPNSEE network members are focal points for Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria (not present at the meeting), Greece, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia.

The agenda included a wide range of interesting issues including New projects on European level, Results of the first round of monitoring harm reduction, Challenges in Harm Reduction and also Correlation state of affairs and Methadone shortage in Romania. Complementing this agenda, participants were given the opportunity to join a series of workshops on Advocacy, Peer Involvement and Intervention Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation. Building upon this pool of expertise, the event offered the possibility to present developments in the different EU countries in regard to drug policy and harm reduction and to disseminate relevant work and activities.

Since the launch of the monitoring tool for harm reduction organizations, Correlation Focal Points have been working on collecting the required data and information. The tool had more than 100 questions and 35 countries from Europe participated. Some results are strange. For instance, the only 3 countries in Europe which expressed civil society’s good cooperation with governments were Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina and Romania! During the meeting, participants shared their experiences and provided feedback on the tool and the process.

Ms Dagmar Hedrich, Head of the Health consequences and responses sector, Lead scientist for harm reduction at EMCDDA, presented the data collected by the agency. DPNSEE Vice President and Executive Director asked what can we do with outdated data coming from some EMCDDA focal points and how could they include data from candidate and non-EU countries? The reply we got was that EMCDDA’s institutional obligation is to report on 28 EU countries and 2 who pay for their services (Norway and Turkey) and that budget cuts and no funds prevent them to cover more. An interesting view Ms Hedrich proposed is that the civil society organisations can perform social autopsy of overdose deaths of people who were using their services. The implementation researches are one of important potentials of CSOs – qualitative information they can provide. A good model they use is that EMCDDA prepares short reports with key messages, tailored for policy makers, followed by webpages or web based portals which give a full information.

The presentation from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was focused on monitoring in general and on Hepatitis in particular. It emphasized that there is a big problem with low number of those diagnosed for HEP, huge numbers in prisons and lack of accurate data.

On Friday 4, the seminar Wellbeing economy – A way to sustainability in the HIV and AIDS response? was held as an official side event during Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU in cooperation with HIV Finland.

Budget analysis presented in Serbia

The budget analysis in Serbia was completed and presented on an event organised jointly by Prevent and DPNSEE in the EU Info Centre in Belgrade on 1 October 2019. The analysis was prepared in scope of the project Budget Advocacy and Monitoring in countries of South East Europe by the team of consultants engaged by Prevent.

The surveys were of a meta-analytic nature, conducted on data and information obtained on the basis of publicly available documents published by state bodies: the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Finance, the Parliament of the Republic of Serbia, the Customs Administration and the Agency for Business Registers.

The aim of the research was to explore the status and trends of program financing in order to find opportunities and solutions for securing funds for their sustainability.

The analysis clearly shows a continuous decrease in the allocation of funds for preventive health care, regardless of whether the total budget of the Ministry is increased or decreased and whether the budget of the Ministry of Health occupies a higher or lower percentage in the national budget for a given year. The most significant finding is the constantly present difference in the planned and executed budget – the allocated/spent funds are continuously reduced compared to those planned.

Besides the analysis of the budget of the Ministry of Health which was produced, DPNSEE has prepared and presented an analysis of the public calls for prevention of the Ministry of Health. This analysis is available following this link>>>.

DPNSEE Board meeting

The Drug Policy Network in South East Europe Board held a regular board meeting in Skopje from 28 to 28 September 2019. All 7 Board members and Executive Director participated.

Significant part of the meeting was dedicated to developing DPNSEE strategic plan. Using the results of the Strategic workshop held in May, the Board worked on the text of a stagey document which will be shared with the member organisations for consultations, to be completed at the General Assembly.

The Board discussed activities held in between the two meetings and projects which are being implemented or planned for the future.

The tentative days for the annual General Assembly are 16 to 18 December 2019. The Assembly will be held in Belgrade.

The Board proposes that all member organisations should re-affirm their acceptance of the DPNSEE Mission and Vision and formally sign it.

The Board discussed and adopted the proposed DPNSEE Travel and Expense Policy and Website privacy policy.

The Board was informed about critical situations of harm reduction services in Bulgaria and Bosnia Herzegovina and discussed potential ways to help member organisations.

New EMCDDA manual and training courses for professionalising drug prevention

Source: EMCDDA

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has launched European Prevention Curriculum (EUPC), the manual for decision – makers, opinion – makers and policy-makers in science based prevention on substance use, designed to train professionals who are involved in shaping prevention decisions, opinions and policies in Europe in the science-based prevention of substance use (1).

There has been much progress over the past 20 years, both in Europe and internationally, in developing responsible and evidence-based interventions in substance use prevention. Yet, prevention practices for which there is little, or no, evidence of effectiveness are still being implemented in school and community settings today. In the worst cases, poorly designed interventions may even cause harm.

The new handbook represents an important step towards achieving the agency’s goal, outlined in EMCDDA Strategy 2025, to support interventions to prevent drug use which are based on evidence. It provides practical overviews of a variety of topics (e.g. aetiology, epidemiology, monitoring and evaluation) as well as prevention in diverse settings (e.g. family, school, workplace, community, media and the broader environment).

emcdda

The aim of the EUPC initiative is to implement a standardised prevention training curriculum in Europe and improve the overall effectiveness of prevention. Adapted from the Universal Prevention Curriculum by the EU-funded UPC-Adapt group, the handbook is based on international standards but with a European slant (2).

EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel said: ‘I believe that Europe will greatly benefit from a professional prevention workforce that values prevention science, has the support of public institutions and is trained in, and knowledgeable about, approaches that are empirically tested and likely to yield results. The EUPC manual and training series aim to reduce the health, social and economic problems associated with substance use by strengthening the expertise of those who influence the development of prevention systems, cultures and activities in their regions.

European Master Trainers – cascading knowledge on evidence-based prevention

This week, the EMCDDA joins forces with the EU-funded project ASAP training for quality in prevention to deliver the first EUPC ‘training of trainers’ course in Lisbon (3). Following two three-day training courses of this kind and a final exam, successful participants will gain the status of European Master Trainers.

The qualification will allow the trainers to cascade evidence-based prevention knowledge through courses in their own country and language. The new handbook forms the main reference material for EUPC training courses, which can be delivered in three forms: online introductory training; training for local or regional decision-, opinion- and policymakers (DOPs); and training in academic settings (future DOPs).

This week 29 participants from 11 countries will take part in the training, including two participants from Georgia and the Lebanon funded through the EU4Monitoring Drugs (EU4MD) project, launched by the EMCDDA earlier this year.

It is hoped that the EUPC manual and training courses will boost the application and spread of effective modern prevention approaches at local and regional level in Europe and facilitate well-informed choices about funding and implementation priorities.