By youth for youth

The safety of young people in the nightlife, a topic of extreme importance for most young people, is often neglected. NGO Re Generacija, which has been putting this topic in the focus of its projects and programs aimed at a systemic approach to this topic for many years, invites to the event to promote the report on the results of the research and the Handbook for participation in public policies for organizations working with youth involved in nightlife and marginalized youth.

The event will be held on 25 January 2024 at the premises of the Office of Combating drugs, Palata Srbija, starting at 10:00. The event is organized with project partners Terra from Croatia and HOPS from North Macedonia and with the support of DPNSEE.

More about the event is available (in Serbian) following this link>>>.

 

Supporting women who use drugs victims of gender-based violence

Our member organisation HOPS – Options for Healthy Life Skopje, in the period from the 13th to the 15th April 2022, realized three one-day trainings in three different cities: Strumica, Bitola and Skopje on the topic: “Treatment of women victims of gender-based violence who use drugs“, intended for professionals working with victims of gender-based violence.

On April 13, the training was held in the Therapeutic Community “Pokrov” – Strumica, which was attended by a total of 13 representatives: 8 representatives from the Centers for Social Work in Sveti Nikole, Strumica, Kočani and Štip and 5 representatives from other non-governmental organizations: Educational – humanitarian organization “EHO” – Štip, Youth Club of the Red Cross Strumica, Women’s Action Radoviš, Sky Plus Strumica and the therapeutic community Pokrov Strumica.

On April 14, the training was held at the hotel “Millennium Palace” Bitola, which was attended by a total of 12 representatives, of which: 3 representatives from the Centers for Social Work in Prilep and Resen, 2 representatives from PHI Health Center Bitola and PHI General Hospital Prilep, 1 representative from PHI Psychomedica Bitola and 6 representatives from non-governmental organizations: Center for Human Rights AMOS – Bitola, Via Vita – Bitola, Station 5 – Prilep and Association for Social Action, Prevention Education EASP Prilep.

On April 15, the training was held in the hotel “City Park” Skopje, which was attended by a total of 13 representatives, as follows: 4 representatives from the Centers for Social Work in Skopje, Veles and Tetovo, 2 representatives from PHI General Hospital Kumanovo and 7 representatives by non-governmental organizations: Macedonian Young Lawyers Association, Association for Health Education and Research HERA Skopje, Civic Initiative for Women Sveti Nikole, National Network against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence and the Red Cross of the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

The trainings were led by prof. Dr. Liljana Ignjatova from the Medical Faculty Skopje, Department of Psychiatry and Hajdi Sterjova Simonovic – Executive Director of the Association HOPS. The purpose of these trainings is to sensitize the professionals who work with women who use drugs in cases when they are victims of gender-based violence.

The participants evaluated all three trainings extremely positively, both from the aspect of high quality and level of theoretical and practical knowledge of the trainers, as well as from the aspect of interaction established between the participants and the trainers and the possibility for exchange of information and experiences.

The experience from the held trainings showed us that there is a huge interest in this topic and the need to conduct such trainings in the future.

The trainings are organized by the Association HOPS, supported by the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA), as part of the project “Access to comprehensive care for women who use drugs in cases of violence” funded by COVID-19 Response Mechanism (C19RM) of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as part of the regional project “Sustainability of services for key populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia region” (#SoS_project) implemented by the Alliance for Public Health.

HOPS closed their harm reduction center

From the HOPS webpage and the Radio MOF news

The Association HOPS – Options for Healthy Life Skopje announced that yesterday, on World Health Day, and in just a day before today’s International Roma Day, after 15 years of existence, they had to close the daily harm reduction center Šuto Orizari – a Skopje suburban municipality with a Muslim Romani people majority.

They point out that the reason for closing the day center is the reduction of funds for HIV prevention programs from the national budget.

“This center opened in 2007, with funds from the Global Fund, and from then until yesterday was the only place where Roma who use drugs and their families had easy access to all services that provide HIV prevention, but also harm reduction from drug use. In this center our customers received basic (and often unique) medical care, received information and support for their social and legal problems, could wash their clothes, warm themselves in winter, eat when they are hungry, drink coffee or tea in a friendly, non-stigmatizing and non-discriminatory atmosphere,” said HOPS.

During the coronavirus pandemic, HOPS managed harm reduction centre was one only contact with the system drug users and their families in Šuto Orizari had.

“When they were isolated and had no therapy, when they had health problems, when they survived all forms of violence, including gender-based violence, when they were given criminal warrants for violating curfew because they went out to find food, goods or therapy – they only received help from our team,” states HOPS. In addition, they say that access to health services, which has already been difficult for these people, has multiplied during the pandemic.

The association says that although in 2017 with the transition of funding from the Global Fund of the Government they merged two other centers, just to keep the center in Šuto Orizari. Now, as they say, they have been put in a position to close the busiest and most visited center in Kisela Voda or to close the “much needed” center in Šuto Orizari.

“From today, the lives of people who use drugs in Šuto Orizari and the surrounding area will not be the same, but HOPS will do its best within its financial means to continue its activities for prevention of HIV and other infectious diseases.” said HOPS.

At the same time, they announced that three times a week, their field team consisting of a social worker and a field worker will visit the users in their homes, dwellings or temporary residences, and that twice a week a medical person will visit them with their vehicle.

 

Protest for drastic budget cut for HIV prevention program

Three civil society organisations from North Macedonia, our member HOPS (Healthy Options Project Skopje), Stronger together (Association for Support of People Living with HIV) and HERA (Health Education and Research Association) protested today because of the budget cuts for HIV prevention program.

Here are some extracts from their statement:

By cutting the budget for HIV prevention by 40%, the Ministry of Health puts the health of at least 10,000 affected citizens at stack. In a scandalous and flat way, without any expert discussion, the Ministry of Health cut as much as 40% of the funds provided for HIV prevention in the Program for protection of the population from HIV-infection for 2022, which the Government adopted only a month ago. Thus, the state puts at risk the closure of the established capacities for control of HIV infection in the country and endangers the health of at least 10,000 citizens from the marginalized communities.

Instead of the envisaged 46.5 million denars in the Program for protection of the population from HIV infection intended for HIV prevention services implemented by about 14 associations in 12 cities in the country, the Ministry of Health yesterday announced a public call for associations with an amount reduced by even 19 million denars. The decision was not consulted by the National Commission on HIV.

 Thanks to these programs, the Republic of Northern Macedonia in the past 15 years has maintained full control of the HIV epidemic in populations of people injecting drugs and sex workers and one of the lowest infection rates in the region. In the past 3 months, the entire national response to this epidemic is literally at the expense of 14 civil society organizations, which continue to work without any compensation for their work.

 Discontinuation of services for vulnerable groups will mean an increase in new infections and an increase in deaths due to HIV, and on the other hand increased pressure on key health institutions, such as the Infectious Diseases Clinic and addiction treatment centers. Even a small increase in the HIV epidemic will lead to a multiplier increase in the cost of treatment and health care. Hence, the decision to arbitrarily cut is simply a bad public health policy.

 In Macedonia, young people are still dying from HIV, and according to the methodology of the European Center for Disease Control, it is estimated that even one third (34%) of the total number of people living with HIV in the country are not aware that they have the virus. With this, Macedonia lags significantly behind the world average, which for 2020 was only 16%. The global goal by 2025 is to reduce the percentage of people who are not aware that they have HIV to less than 5%, which will lead to a drastic decline in the transmission of infection and will allow to put an end to the HIV epidemic by 2030.

 Given the alarming situation and citing the country’s commitments under the United Nations Policy Declaration on HIV and AIDS of June 2021, including the obligation to end the HIV epidemic, as well as the commitments made by the Government to ensure the continuity of HIV programs, we require:

  • Urgently correct the announced public call for associations that will implement the activities for HIV prevention in accordance with the amounts provided in the Program for protection of the population from HIV-infection for 2022, adopted by the Government in February this year;
  • The Government and the Parliament should finally guarantee the continuity of the already established system for protection against HIV. This means: The Assembly to adopt without delay and in full the amendments to the Law on Health Care which are in parliamentary procedure, and refer to the mechanism of involvement of associations in the implementation of health programs, and the Ministry of Health to develop bylaws that will fulfilled the obligations from the conclusions adopted by the Government in September 2017 and the obligations from the previous and current Government Strategy for cooperation and development of the civil society sector;
  • Due to the long delay in announcing the public call, the Government and the Ministry of Health through intervention support to reimburse the costs of the associations for the first quarter of 2022 incurred due to their dedicated maintenance of the national response to HIV.

 

Police and Drug Treatment Together

The Rome Consensus 2.0, together with Chicago Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities TASC. and The Police, Treatment, and Community Collaborative PTACC, organise the side event “Police and Drug Treatment Together: the Global Emergence of Deflection as a Humanitarian Crime Reduction Approach to Drugs” during the 65th UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

The event is designed to bring together CSOs, professionals, leaders and public authorities from across the world to explore ways to effectively combine humanitarian attitude in health, criminal justice, prevention and community responses to addiction problems. The aim of the event is to focus and share on a new emerging health-based practice called “Deflection”, which sits at the nexus of policing, drug treatment, housing, services, recovery, and local community.

Deflection leverages the hundreds of millions of contacts that police and law enforcement have globally with people who use drugs for personal use but might otherwise 1) be arrested or 2) not be arrested without any action taken to address their personal drug use that causes, often repeatedly, contact with police and law enforcement. Yet, regardless of which of the two options is applicable, the person would do better from engagement in community-based drug treatment, housing, services, and recovery at that very point-in-time encounter. In other words, Deflection is an early, preventative, “upstream” approach that seeks to prevent possible future criminal conduct, death, or unrelenting drug use by addressing the problems associated with drug use for the person, their family and children, and for the community itself.

The side event will be held on March 14th at 1:10 PM (CET). It is co-sponsored by:

  • Red Cross and Red Crescent Partnership on Substance Abuse IFRC, The Villa Maraini Foundation, Italian Red Cross (Italy)
  • Pompidou Group – Council of Europe
  • Knowmad Institut (El Salvador/Germany)
  • Section Commander for Substance Abuse Program of SAPS South Africa Police Services (South Africa).
  • MENAHRA Middle East and North Africa Harm Reduction Association (Lebanon)
  • DPNSEE – Drug Policy Network of South East Europe, HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje (North Macedonia)

Our colleague Nataša Boškova, Legal adviser at HOPS and Coalition “Margini”, will present the model of cooperation with the police and the development of the module for training on ethical conduct of the police toward people who use drugs.

Register here to join the event on Zoom:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_G8us9PT9R8GOJsbIRKX7xA

Rome Consensus 2.0 is a Humanitarian Drug Policy alliance, a call from professionals to governments to make urgent moves towards health and human rights based approaches. The Humanitarian Drug Policy’s primary objective is to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity by fighting social, legal and cultural criminalization of people who use drugs.

 

A new daily centre

Our member organisation Healthy Options Project Skopje (HOPS) from North Macedonia opened the new Daily Centre for Rehabilitation and Resocialization of Drug Users and Their Families. The centre is located at a new location – 16 Kosta Kirkov Street in the city centre of the capitol Skopje.

The working hours of the centre are from 10 to 15 h. The centre continues to provide services: psychiatrist, psychologist and pedagogue. Depending on the needs of clients, all other services of the organization are also available – support from a social worker, lawyer, etc.

In partnership and with financial support from the City of Skopje, Department of Social, Child and Health Protection, HOPS, opened the Daily Centre back in September 2012.

 

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.