Triple R LogoECAD participates in a 2-year long EU project  (TRIPLE R) on the exchange of the best practice in the field of recovery between EU member states. The project aims at reducing recidivism and crime in regard to drug addiction and spreading the cost effective and productive models on drug Rehabilitation, social Reintegration and Reinsertion of the drug addicts.

 The project is run by San Patrignano Community, world`s largest therapeutic community for full recovery, which has been a partner for ECAD for many years.

first meeting in Ghent

4 well-known international rehabilitation communities are involved in the project and this winter and spring all project partners will participate in 3 study visits and 2 workshops, implying mutual learning and best practice exchange. The project has a pilot phase to be implemented later in Croatia, involving 3 different NGOs helping drug addicts.

The first study visit was made to the city of Ghent in Belgium on February 1-4, 2016, in order to investigate a unique practice of drug court`s in action. The visit was hosted by a Belgian NGO Popov GGZ, a consultation platform on mental health, including addiction.

Meeting Ghent Drug Policy coordinators

We were welcome in Ghent City Hall and met the city Drug Policy Coordinator, Mr Filip De Sager, Provincial Drug Policy Coordinator, Mr. Bert Mostien and the heart of the Ghent Drug Court system, its liaison coordinator Mr. Alphonse Franssen (the three gentelmen pictured closer below from left to right).

Our hosts

The unique concept of Ghent Drug Court system is allowing a treatment to take place before any sentence or a verdict has been stated and a crime registered. The attitude of a judge at a Drug Court is thus strict but highly motivating, approving of a personal achievement and not moralizing about an addict. Also, crimes involving the use of alcohol are a matter of drug courts.
The system has been in use for 7-8 years in East Flanders and implies efficient local communication between the drug court and treatment facilities, performed by liaison officers. The region of East Flanders has 5800 beds for outpatient treatment and 3200 beds for inpatient treatment to avail for the system. As in other Drug Court models, all prosecuted are supposed to follow the urine testing procedure every 2 weeks. The judge emphasizes the gruesomeness of the sentence if the treatment fails, which is an impetus to motivation for the treatment.

East Flanders with its 4 million inhabitants has 4 emergency centres and 5 crisis centres to offer for 300 people annually. There are 3 therapeutic communities in the area of Ghent and 5 in the whole country. The beds are often subsidized by Belgian federal government; also, 15% of the drug treatment subsidies come from the provincial government.
East Flanders uses an Integrated Treatment System, which became an evolution within the drug policy since 1998. The ITS consists of a complete set of care and treatment programmes for illicit drug users, guaranteeing customized care and its continuity, organized in a network. The therapeutic ideologies within the treatment programmes had to give way for solving concrete problems of the clients, which led to respect, shared vision and investigation of services available to make the treatment effective.

Ghent City HallThe city of Ghent
applies a bottom-up approach to the drug policy, when the work priorities are chosen by the stakeholders of the local Drug Policy Steering Committee. The Committee consists of the police representatives, drug prevention sector of the city, NGO Popov GGZ, field workers, a mayor of Ghent and 3 deputies.
Also, Ghent city seeks for a solution-oriented approach, activating drug users and stressing the importance of a correct alcohol policy. These important features however do not necessarily define that a recovered drug user is substance-free.
Addiction care has efficiently become a matter of case management, a scientific basis for breaking the boundaries between often stiff drug policy agencies. This model was born out of concern for better service in crisis and emergency situations (to link clients to the right services), when continuity and support are extremely important. Case managers establish a contact with the clients, assessing their strengths and weaknesses and connecting the court system to the treatment services.

The first encounter with local drug policy coordinators revealed differences in the definition of “recovery” for the partners of the project, meaning a sustainability of condition of a drug user, prioritizing housing for the homeless users for our Belgian partners.

(Ghent City Hall)
Flemish Ministry of Health set Recovery as a main strategy, but that was not about sobriety or control
. Recovery in Belgium is about establishing a fulfilling, meaningful life. The point of case management is also keeping people in treatment, helping them indirectly to stay sober and to sustain recovery.
Our study visit framework involved visiting a number of treatment facilities, from a Crisis Intervention Centre De Sleutel, to the low-threshold Opstap centre, a Municipal Outreach Department for highly marginalized drug users. The range of treatment services is varied and is fully verified by the local data for demand for treatment. And the treatment demands in 2013 were mostly related to cannabis (33,5%) and opioids (30,6%), less to cocaine (15,6%).

A common definition of recovery is crucial for the project and for the dissemination of the best practices that implies a substance-free full recovery from drug addiction. There is a small discrepancy to take into consideration if we are to deliver the best project outputs.
The model of case management within the drug court system in Ghent is empirical and innovative with a scientific base from Ghent University.
ECAD looks forward to publishing and introducing a manual on the Ghent Drug Court system in English (and Italian, probably in some other languages) to national and international stakeholders of our network of the member cities.