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Drug Policies in local settings Panel

 “A drug policy without harm reduction is not comprehensive”

Over the past years there has been a greater role for what is local, showing innovative public-private linkages, and alternative ways of management.

In this panel, different officials and members of organizations which carry out initiatives in various areas shared their experiences and results.

(Bogotá, 12.06.12, 10:30 am) “We must implement policies that include comprehensive drug harm reduction. With no harm reduction, no drug policy is comprehensive, “claimed Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo Martinez, Secretary of Health of the Mayor of Bogotá. The official of the Colombian capital was one of the participants of the Drug policies in local settings Panel,  held this morning in the framework of the Fourth Latin American Conference on Drug Policy, that takes place in that city.

Jaramillo Martinez remarked that “the State has as ethical mandate the guarantee of human dignity, and the restitution, to the citizens of vulnerable and violated rights. We should not hide the problems; we must make them visible and act. Our president understands that we must deal with the problem. The solution is legalization. We must move beyond the policies promoted by the United States, based on repression, which has cost us many deaths”.

According to him, “one of the priority tasks now is to provide therapeutic alternatives that do not lead to a forced or prolonged hospitalization or abstinence the only option. For eight years, President Uribe attempted to deny that consumption was a public health problem, and solve everything by prohibition and repression. Fortunately, with the new authorities, this view has changed, and is sympathetic to the one our mayor Gustavo Petro has”.

Freedom and uniqueness

In turn, Lumena Almeida Castro Furtado, Assistant Secretary of Health and Policy coordinator of the Care policy of Alcohol and Drug Network of the Municipality of Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, explained the principles governing the policy carried out by that agency.

“The first of these principles – she quoted- is freedom, always seeking strategies that help to expand the autonomy of every individual. The second is the creation of bonds, which helps us not abandon the people even if it seems very difficult to change their quality of life. Then there is the uniqueness: there´s not a same model for everyone. And finally the networking, as there is no service that is merely able to account for everything.

She also noted that “we must recognize the territory in which the services are embedded. Walking the streets, meeting local leaders and establishing bonds with social organizations. For us it is very important the association with social movements. All this helps to get people out of vulnerable situations. “

Peer to Peer

Iván Fornís Espinosa, Senior Technical at the management of Drug analysis Service of Energy Control, Spain, described the work carried out by this organization, which basically consists of information for recreational drug consumers and of substance analysis.

“We have stands at parties, raves, clubs, concerts and other entertainment venues where users find people like them who will receive them kindly and give them information. They are told how to make a less harmful consumption. The team is composed of professionals and volunteers. These volunteers are linked to these places that hold parties, so it is a work of equals”, he said.

As for the analysis, warned that “there is a lack of knowledge of the composition. Beyond fatal cases, which are the most serious, there are cases of adulterants. There are acute poisonings that make people spend hard time in the night. We have drug testing as a harm reduction strategy, not as quality control. “

Safe injection

Another panelist was Liz Evans, executive director and founder of PHS Community Services Society – Insite, Vancouver, Canada. Insite is the only injection site in North America, she said, expressing satisfaction because, after many obstacles they had to overcome to get it running, “the people of our community have a higher life expectancy than 10 years ago “. After a first stage where generated a lot of resistance in most of the population, “people changed their minds and began to see it as a community service. Finally, was supported by all three levels of government and by local police. “

After explaining that in Insite injections are made with clean needles and with the assistance of nurses, Evans said, “The solution lies in understanding the commitment to people and knowing what they need regain their dignity. Our policy is based on ensuring that they regain their dignity, and to understand how to help each of them”.

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