Regional meeting “Children who use drugs”

The regional meeting on “Children Who Use Drugs“, organised on 28 April by the Healthy Options Project Skopje (HOPS), was dedicated to exchanging experiences and sharing good practices in the region related to the problems and challenges faced by countries and civil society organizations in working with children and young people who use drugs, such as the availability of health and social programs for young people and children who use drugs.

Presentations on the topic had Liljana Ignjatova, Ph.D., Professor at the Faculty of Medicine in Skopje, Department of Psychiatry, and Head of the Centre for Prevention and Treatment of Drug Addiction, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Eranda Berisha from Centre for Social Work Pristina, Kosovo*, Skerdi Zahaj, consultant in “Initiative for Social Change” ARSIS from Albania, Marija Mijović social worker at the NGO Juventas from Montenegro and Denis Dedajić from NGO Margina from Bosnia Herzegovina.

From the presentations of all speakers, it can be concluded that the rate of children and young people using drugs and other psychoactive substances is increasing. Health and other relevant institutions do not have an adequate answer to this question. In all countries in the region there is a complete lack of appropriate treatment programs for children who use drugs.

Recommendations from the meeting include:

  • Use good practices from countries where there are programs to treat and care for children and young people who use drugs
  • Prepare and adopt appropriate programs for the treatment of children and young people who use drugs
  • Strengthen partnerships between CSOs and health and social institutions in policymaking and provision of services for children using drugs

The project “The Role of CSOs in the Western Balkans in Providing Social Services and Preventing Social Exclusion” is funded by SIDA – Swedish International Development Agency, through the Balkan Civil Society Development Network.

The project is implemented regionally in six Western Balkan countries, including ARSIS Youth Support Social Organization (Albania), Asocijacija Margina (Bosnia and Herzegovina), HOPS (Northern Macedonia), Qendra Labyrinth (Kosovo), Prevent (Serbia), NVO Juventas (Montenegro).

 

International Conference on Drug Regulation Models

Our colleagues from the Healthy Project Options Skopje (HOPS) and Coalition Margins are organizing International Conference on Drug Regulation Models. The Conference will be organized on 18th and 19th November 2020, online, in form of panel discussions and expert presentations.

The conference is organized as part of the project “Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities“, supported by the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia.

This interesting event is going to present the new Comparative analysis of the drug regulation models in Netherlands and Portugal. It will have foreign experts presentations such us: João Castel-Branco Goulão, General Directorate for Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies (SICAD), Director, Portugal; Tomas Zabransky, M.D., Ph.D., University professor, Czech Republic; Hans Abma, senior policy adviser, International Criminal Cooperation, Ministry of Justice, Netherlands; Thomas Zosel, Chief Inspector of Crime, Drug and Traffic prevention (E4), Police Headquarters Frankfurt am Main. Additionally, the Conference will engage domestic representatives from different institutions (police, judiciary, CSO’s, ministries, politicians, health institutions, community members) in discussion what can be done next in North Macedonia in the area concerned and give the topic an importance in the country.

In order to join the Conference, you have to register on the following link. Deadline for registration to the Conference is 16 November 2020 at 17.00 CET.

The Invitation with the agenda of the Conference is available following this link>>>. We hope you shall join and contribute. Please, don’t hesitate to share the information to your colleagues and partners.

 

Prevention of COVID-19 among key populations

Healthy Options Project Skopje (HOPS) implements several activities in scope of the project “Prevention of COVID-19 among drug users, sex workers and their families” financially supported by the Government of the Republic of Northern Macedonia, through the Program for financing the program activities of associations and foundations for measures to deal with COVID -19 crisis. These include:

  • Material assistance for drug users, sex workers and their families
  • Distribution of informative-educational materials for prevention of COVID-19
  • Education among our users of COVID-19 protection services
  • Drugs – immunostimulants
  • Protective gear
  • Hygienic materials for smooth operation of the work in the drop-in centres of HOPS

In the past three months, 150 hygiene kits and food packages were provided and distributed, of which 135 to their service users and their families and 15 packages for homeless people or people who use drugs and sex workers who do not have a permanent place of residence.

In addition to providing material assistance, the HOPS team conducted 160 trainings for prevention of COVID-19 (141 trainings between PWUD and 59 trainings with SW) and distributed 462 informative printed materials containing tips for protection against corona virus.

Also, thanks to this project, the HOPS drop-in centres are equipped with hygienic materials and protective equipment for the staff who work in the centres and conduct field activities.

 

Support to children and young people using drugs

As part of the project ′′Living with addiction – improving the mental health and quality of life of children and young people using drugs during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis′′ supported by the OSCE Mission to Skopje, HOPS (Healthy Options Project Skopje) shared hygiene and food packages to persons using their services. At the same time they shared information about the services available in their organization.

Children and young people up to 25 years old using drugs and their families in need for psychological support and counselling about COVID-19, can contact HOPS every working day from 10:00 to 15:00 pm on their phone number.

Workshop on preparation of a new National Drug Strategy 2021 – 2025

HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje, within the regional project Sustainability of services for key populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (#SoS_project) supported by the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, facilitates the workshop of the multi-sectorial working group on preparations of the National Drug Strategy 2021 – 2025 and the Action Plan 2021 – 2023.

The multi-sectorial working group was established by the Minister of Health. It consists of representatives from all relevant ministries, state institutions and civil society organizations. The workshop is being held in Ohrid from 14 to 18 September 2020.

The purpose of this workshop is to prepare the new National Drug Strategy 2021 – 2025, which by the end of the year should be adopted by the Government of the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

HOPS – Options for healthy living Skopje and services during COVID-19

Taken from the HOPS website

After the announcement of the corona virus pandemic, harm reduction services were modified but all clients were covered.

Drop-in centres for harm reduction of HOPS are closed, but each service has a special phone number and contact person that meets the needs of users. They can also contact the services through all social media (Facebook , Twitter , Instagram , Website) where all the news related to harm reduction from the coronavirus and all the new recommendations for protection of the population from and the World Health Organisation the Government are continuously published.

Mobile field teams operate every day, where users with pre-made contact are visited in front of their homes. The team is formed in dependence on the need of the clients (therapeutic and social worker, therapeutic and medical worker, therapeutic and lawyer). In accordance with the recommendation of the Government, there may be a maximum of two people in one vehicle. Field teams distribute sterile utensils (needles, syringes, distilled water, condoms and lubricants) daily and inform customers about all news related to the coronavirus and instructions and advice on protecting public health (such as the recommendations from INPUD).

HOPS team at work even in surprisingly bad weather conditions

HOPS, in cooperation with other humanitarian organizations, is also planning humanitarian actions in order to provide food and hygiene packages for the most vulnerable populations. Once a week, the medical person (doctor) must be part of the field team in order to assess the general health of the population and to react in a timely manner if necessary.

Substitution therapy centres carry out their activities smoothly and clients regularly receive their therapy. The staff employed at the methadone centres has increased the level of protective measures. They don’t allow more patients to be gathered (therapy is raised one by one) and fully follow the recommendations for protective equipment from the government of Northern Macedonia and the WHO.

For now, our team is working bravely, without obstacles and is dedicated to support all those in need. We thank them for their empathy and sacrifice during these strange times.

 

Edit (6 April)

The Foundation for Open Society Macedonia, in cooperation with the Macedonian Red Cross, donated 100.000 USD for humanitarian support including food and hygienic packages for Roma population. It will be distributed to 2.000 families with around 10.000 people in 9 cities and villages across the country. Our member organisation HOPS will be among 6 civil society organisations that will organise the delivery.
More (in Macedonian) is available following this link>>>.

 

HOPS appointed the Acting Executive Director

Announcement for appointment of Acting Executive Director of HOPS

In times of extraordinary circumstances the Association HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje is experiencing, due to the sudden death of our dear colleague and Executive Director Mr. Ivica Cekovski, the Steering Committee has reached a decision to appoint Ms Hadji Sterjova Simnovic as an Acting Executive Director of the organization. This decision is a temporary one, with a duration of three months, i.e. until the state-of-emergency ends in our country and proper conditions for electing and appointing new Executive Director will be created. The position of Acting Executive Director entails the same responsibilities and obligations as an Executive Director.

Ms Sterjova Simonovic ќ is an attorney, with a long-standing experience working for HOPS and has an indispensable experience and knowledge in its activities, as well as the communities it represents.

We lost Ivica

It is with our deepest sorrow that we learned of passing of Ivica Cekovski, the Executive Director of HOPS, North Macedonia.

It was a joy to work with Ivica. He was calm, nice, organised and eager to give a helping hand. He was a wonderful person who will be so sorely missed.

We join our friends from HOPS with thoughts of comfort in helping them get over the immense void left behind by the loss of our beloved colleague Ivica. Words cannot express our sorrow. Ivica will be missed.

Regional conference on youth at risk

The regional conference on youth at risk, the closing event of the project “At-Risk Youth Social Empowerment“, was held in Podgorica, Montenegro on 10 – 11 December 2019. The project was supported by the European Union and implemented by consortium of six organizations from six Western Balkan countries: Juventas (project coordinator, Montenegro), ARSIS (Albania), Association Margina (Bosnia and Herzegovina), HOPS (Macedonia), NGO Labyrinth (Kosovo), Prevent (Serbia).

The conference aimed to examine results of the implementing reforms as well as remaining challenges in the field of social policies focusing on youth at risk. Within the scope of this project, youth at risk category includes young people using drugs, young people in conflict with the law, youth without parental care, young Roma, youth with street experience, youth living in families with history of using drugs or/and conflict with the law.

The conference gathered policy officials, researchers, service providers, civil society activists and members of the academia from the region of Western Balkan and Europe to discuss current social position of different youth at risk categories and main obstacles for better social integration. Guests and speakers included Nikola Janović, Minister of Sports and Youth, Government of Montenegro and representatives of the ministries of Health, Education, Justice and Labour and Social Welfare, Fiona McCluney, resident coordinator, UN system Montenegro, Michaela Bauer, UNICEF’s Deputy Representative for Montenegro and Ana Margarida Tome De Freitas Mariguesa, European Delegation to Montenegro, among others.

One of the main topics was related to the social services in terms of their quality, regional availability, process of monitoring and evaluation. Also, the conference was the opportunity to explore current state of the cooperation between public administration and civil society in the process of service provision. Different modes of cooperation were discussed including examples of good practice with the aim to identifying cooperation models that can have best possible results. The sustainability of the social services was one of the topics.

A very emotional moment of the conference was screening of the movie “Where is the home?” which was produced with the support from the project. The movie presents personal stories of two young man who grew up in a home for children and youth without parental care.

Representatives of the DPNSEE member organisations were active throughout the conference. Board members Nebojša Đurasović and Denis Dedajić were panellists, while Executive Director Milutin Milošević moderated one of the panels.

Training for the State commission for combating drugs

HOPS – Healthy Options Skopje, on 7 and 8 October 2019 organized an educational workshop on capacity building for the members of the Inter-ministerial state committee for combating illicit production, trade and drug abuse in the Republic of North Macedonia.

This educational workshop was organized as part of the regional project “Sustainability of services for key populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia” supported by the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The activities in the country are implemented by three partner organizations: Stronger together, HERA and HOPS.

The purpose of this workshop was to update the members of the Committee on harm reduction programs, as well as to initiate a coordination process for the preparation of the new national drug strategy which should be developed by end of 2020.

The lecturers of the workshop were: Vlatko Dekov, Advocacy manager and harm reduction expert at HOPS, Lidija Savić, Pharmacist and Chair of the Inter-ministerial committee on drugs, Heidi Sterjova Simonović, project coordinator and Dr Darko Kostovski, Psychiatrist specializing in the field of drug addiction treatment.