he Macedonian Harm Reduction Network – MHRN and the City of Skopje in 2007 realized the project “Network of Cities on Drug Policy”.
The initiative promoted democratic responses to the problem of drug use based on the participation principle, in order to develop coordinated response for successful coping of the drug problems locally and nationally.
For that purpose, City of Skopje undertook the initiative to form a coordinative body on drugs on the level of the City of Skopje and to propose a drug policy. The coordinative body on drugs of the City of Skopje counts 25 members and is comprised of:
Expert counseling body (its members are: experts, representatives of the following organizations / institutions: Agency for youth and sports, The Red Cross of the City of Skopje, PHI Center for public health – Skopje, Intermunicipal center for social work, PHI Psychiatric hospital, MOI – Skopje, Health center – Skopje, psychological-pedagogical units in primary schools, psychological-pedagogical units in high schools, the Macedonian orthodox church and representatives of citizen’s organizations: Info/Drugs/AIDS, Youth Challenge Macedonia, HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje and Association of citizens – DOVERBA.
Body of local coordinators in City of Skopje Municipality (its members are people assigned from the Municipalities in the City of Skopje).
Within the Coordinative body on drugs, 5 working groups were formed, working on strategic areas in priority objectives and activities:
Primary prevention – Decreasing the number of people taking up drugs;
City safety – Strengthening the capacities of the Police for effective management of the drug use problem;
Treatment – Including more drug users in treatment and enabling different treatment options and programs;
Rehabilitation and re-socialization – Decreasing social risks and harm related to drug use by improving rehabilitation and social inclusion of DUP;
Harm reduction – HIV/AIDS and other BSTDs prevention among people using drugs, their partners and families;
Coordination and cooperation – Improving coordination and cooperation among organizations and institutions in the City of Skopje who work on coping with the problem of drug use.
After the performed assessment on the needs of citizens of Skopje, in the period from September 2007 to April 2008, the Coordinative body on drugs of the City actively worked on preparing a local strategy on drugs and Action plan on drugs. In the preparation of the important documents, several trainings were organized on building capacities of the local government and the institutions for preparing strategic documents, and trainings in the area of prevention of the use of drugs and treatment of drug addiction, lectures on best practices in offering social services from most European cities. In the process, domestic and foreign experts were engaged, and of particular importance was the support from several city institutions, such as the City Council.
The objective of the local strategy is through a coordinated and syncronized approach in the local community to ensure decrease in drug availability, decrease in the number of people starting to use drugs, the development of healthy and social services which will provide an available and effective treatment and care for people who use drugs, as well a reduction of drug related harms.
In order to carry out the Local Strategy and the Action Plan, the City of Skopje has been participating for several years now, with a financial help in part of the activities in all stated areas of the Local Drugs Strategy:
- Counseling and education for prevention of drug use among the high school population in the City of Skopje;
- Daily center for rehabilitation and re-socialization of drug users and their families;
- Support of daily centers for harm reduction services;
- SOS line for help in drug use and prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases;
- Info-line and counseling for drug use related problems and the use of alcohol in the area of the City of Skopje.
In all supported projects, programs are based on health promotion, i.e. promoting health and healthy choices as the biggest value.
The City of Skopje, through the work of the Coordinative body on drugs of the City of Skopje, when implementing the new Local strategy on drugs 2015–2020, is prepared to offer an appropriate response to the needs of young people and to the target group by extending the network of offices and introducing new models for prevention, treatment and re-socialization of drug users. The treatment of children who use drugs, ensuring sustainability of harm reduction programs, decrease of stigma and discrimination of persons who need help are only some of burning issues and challenges with which the capital is facing. The challenge remains to maintain sustainability of the services needed for citizens and shared responsibility of all stakeholders and competent institutions and organizations, which means joint initiation, establishment, carrying out and financing of activities.
Although the issues covered are very sensitive, it is a special experience when we work according to the principles of respecting human rights, democracy, participation, transparency. The coordinative body on drugs of the City of Skopje is open to share its experience in building strategic documents to other institutions and organizations.
Within the DECIDE project (European project financed by the European Commission „Europe to its citizens”), in a poll, citizens chose Local strategy on drugs of the city of Skopje to be one of three best offered projects from a total of six.
Eleonora Panchevska Nikolovska
The author is a manager at the Unit for social security, child and health protection, Public Activities Department of the City of Skopje, coordinator of the Coordinative body on drugs of the City of Skopje, Coordinator for equal opportunities for men and women.