Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my honour and pleasure to welcome delegates from all over Europe to this, the 14th ECAD Mayors’ Conference.
Let me say at the outset a sincere word of thanks to the Mayor and Council of the historic city of Istanbul, a city which for centuries has been a vital link in uniting the people of the continents of Europe and Asia, for hosting this years’ conference.
Perhaps Istanbul will soon continue its its historic mission by uniting and energizing the members of ECAD in their war with illicit drugs.
Istanbul’s generosity and commitment is deeply appreciated by all the members of ECAD.
This conference provides a platform for Mayors and Deputy Mayors as well as other city officials to review the existing situation on the ongoing struggle against the use of illicit drugs in our cities, and to share best practices so that cities may become more effective as they strive to protect their citizens from the scourge of illicit drugs as they enhance and improve their policies for prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration of drug addicts into the mainstream life of our city communities.
ECAD is a person-centred organisation. The vast majority of delegates to this conference are elected representatives who work on a daily basis to make their cities and towns better places in which to live, to work and to spend one’s leisure hours.
Some cities are preoccupied with the injurious social effects of bad housing or unemployment or lack of community facilities.
But all of our cities are conscious of the detrimental effects on individuals, families and entire local communities, of the use of illicit drugs on the lives of our citizens – young and old.
ECAD member cities work to develop initiatives and strategies against drug abuse supporting the United Nations Conventions which oppose legalisation and promote policies to eradicate drug abuse worldwide.
May I take this opportunity to thank Dr. Dagur Eggertsson and Tomas Hallberg for their work in driving the ”Youth in Europe – a Drug Prevention Programme”.
This is a five year programme which started in 2005. Ultimately it will compare prevention strategies and seek best practices across Europe in order to provide valuable information for all who are involved in the ongoing task of protecting young people from life destroying effects of of illicit drugs.
On the subject of young people, in my country we have recently launched a new initiative urging young people to wear a national emblem or badge which sends out a clear message that the wearer is opposed to drugs. Some people see this initiative as being a dream, but every initiative that was ever tried started as a little dream. It is a little stream in a high place that makes a great river flowing to the sea. It was launched in a part of Dublin which saw six .people die from drug related causes in a period of ten days. Indeed on the occasion of the launch, a consultant cardiologist remarked: ”make no mistake about it, drugs kill and I see the consequences of it in my practice daily and weekly and I see the injurious effects of drug abuse on individuals and their families”.
I said earlier that ECAD is a person-centred organisation, not some international group that issues a list of Do’s and Dont’s in relation to illicit drugs. We set out to educate the young and the old regarding the potential dangers inherent in drug experimentation, but we also strive to respond to the misery of addicted people by ensuring that adequate up-to-date treatment facilities are in place in the cities across Europe.
In this regard each member city should ask itself how adequate are the treatment facilities in our city, and how strong is connectivity between various city agencies which are involved in the war against drugs.
No one agency can come to grips with this major social problem on its own.
There has to be ongoing cooperation and planning between health services, education authorities, the police and community activists if we are to control this social malady.
In addition we must continually reappraise the effectiviness of our approach to the drug problem and the services we are producing.
In my country we have in recent times published a ”Report of a working group on treatment of under 18 year olds presenting to treatment services with drug problems”.
Drug misuse is an affliction of our society and recognising it, and intervening at an early stage of an individual’s drug misuse, is extremely important.
The issue of drug misuse amongst under 18’s presents its own particular issues for those of us in the development of policy relating to the treatment of substance misuse.
In the Irish study of this group in the Dublin area from 1996 to 2000 the number of under 18’s presenting for treatment of drug misuse doubled. As a result, a special working group on the treatment of the under 18 year olds was established by the National Drug Strategy Team.
The Group, to fulfil its remit, undertook a number of intitatives, including:
- examination of legal issues surrounding treatment
- review of available literature
- a review of existing services and gaps nationally
- a focus group of service users
- a review of issues raised by the above.
The working group emphasised that the services needed to be child centred, particularly designed, so young people would be encouraged into and retained in these services in order to benefit from treatment and rehabilitation services.
Services need to be flexible and adaptable to respond to the fluctuations and variations in the problems being presented.
Legal and ethical issues relating to consent are a particular difficulty and in this regard it is vital to have family involvement in the treatment of a child or adolescent. Having family involved also significantly improves outcome of treatment.
I think the concept of a Four Tier Treatment Model is truly the way forward.
Delivering services at the most appropriate level of intervention will avoid for many kids the stigma often attached to ”being in a drug treatment centre”.
The Four Tier Model of treatment is currently being developed in Cork City.
Cork Local Drugs Task Force have developed 16 community projects in areas of our city ”most at risk”. The projects managed by the Community Group employ professionally trained outreach workers who engage with the young ”at risk” people in the area and identify particular issues that are causing their problems.
This type of intervention is so successful it has shown a reduction in drug use by a regional study in 2004 compared to a similar study in 1997.
Close working relationships have developed between these projects and the Health Services’Community Counselling services. These counsellors work in local facilities familiar to the young people and this reduces the resistance to availing of the services.
In circumstances where issues are more complex the young person is referred to a structured programme run by a multidisciplinary team. The team provide an opportunity to address serious issues and involve family members in the process. These programmes usually involve daily attendance for 12-16 weeks.
Occasionally it is necessary to consider residential treatment. This option is valuable where the necessary domestic and social supports are not present. It is also necessary where the young person is unable to stay away from their harmful use from day to day, and is exposed to harmful influences.
Adaptations of this structure may be necessary from time to time depending on the presenting conditions. Treating all under 18’s in the same services may not always be appropriate. Many of our services are now looking at the need to develop specific services for under 16’s. This group will often-times have many different issues than the older group.
I mentioned earlier the need to involve Family in the process. Last year the Cork Local Drugs Task Force in partnership with Health Services introduced a specific family intervention programme. Strengthening Families is a tried and tested method of family intervention.
In order to develop the Strengthening Families Programme we brough Dr. Karol Kumpfer and Dr. Henry Whiteside (the developers of the system) to Cork to train 60 of our people in
the method and prepare them to deliver a programme for groups of 10 – 12 families.
The programme involves the attendance of ten – twelve families one evening per week for 14 weeks and participating in a structured group process.
I recently attended a graduation of 10 families from the Strengthening Families programme and it was heartening to hear the families speak of the real benefits to each of them.
The aim is to assist families to communicate better and have a more positive relationship with each other.
The family is the most influential part in a young persons life and we must focus on giving support to the families who are at risk.
In conclusion, let me pay tribute to the members of the Advisory Board of ECAD for their commitment to the ideals of ECAD, for their first-hand knowledge of the injurious effects of illicit drugs on people of all age groups, and for their unflagging enthusiasm to respond to new research while consistently striving to share best practices with all the member cities of ECAD.
With people of such calibre ECAD can look to the future with courage and confidence.
Drug abuse is a treateble disease.