Inaugural drug treatment standards forum a success

Caricom says the first regional training workshop on the Standards of Care for Treatment and Rehabilitation Facilities for Substance Abusers was a “resounding success.”

In a press release the Caricom Secretariat said over 40 international and regional stakeholders participated in the Montego Bay, Jamaica meeting which it facilitated jointly with the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD).

The meeting “brought critical stakeholders, practitioners and services providers in illicit drug treatment and care to develop national and regional strategies for strengthening or establishing and implementing national treatment standards for CARICOM countries,” the release said. It addressed issues of training and regulations; licensing and certification of drug treatment personnel as well as challenges related to resources.

The main outcome of the meeting was the identification of standards relating to critical areas in drug treatment, care and rehabilitation facilities which would be used in tandem with other documents to draft the Universal Caricom Handbook on Standards of Care for Treatment and Rehabilitation Facilities for Substance Abusers.

The draft document is expected to be completed by June for circulation to participants and members states for national consultations before presentation to the Council for Human and Social Development in 2010.

Meanwhile, Chair of the Meeting Beverley Reynolds, who is also the Caricom Secretariat’s Programme Manager for Sustainable Development, explained that the meeting also identified and discussed strategies to ensure adoption, implementation and enforcement of the standards, on their completion.

Dr Wallace Mandell, Professor Emeritus at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in commenting on the two-day meeting declared that its success was due largely to the leadership of the Secretariat and to the positive synergies it had harnessed in bringing together such a dynamic group of stakeholders who demonstrated commitment and tenacity in getting the work done despite the challenges. He also noted that the anticipated handbook on standards of care would raise the bar of excellence in drug treatment services and rehabilitation facilities.

Dr Mandell, who was also one of the presenters at the meeting, said he hoped that member states would “accept and own” the standards once they were completed and apply them to their treatment programmes. He said further that he was “very impressed” with the progress made by the Community in developing treatment programmes and raising the standards of care for persons suffering from substance abuse and related illnesses. Dr Mandell then challenged the practitioners to be creative in finding ways to support and sustain the services they provided without sacrificing standards.

Further, Dr Anna Chisman, Head of Drug Demand Reduction at CICAD, underscored these sentiments and explained that the follow-up activities including region-wide sensitisation would be critical in ensuring that the standards were owned by practitioners. She also expressed confidence that the Secretariat would provide effective leadership in the process and reiterated CICAD’s support.

Several other participants including CICAD’s Inter-American Observatory on Drugs specialist Pernell Clarke said he was particularly pleased that there was a tangible plan to move forward and anticipated that within the next two years, the Community would have established standards to guide practice in the drug treatment and rehabilitation services sector.

The outcomes from this workshop would be fed into the meeting of the European Union, Latin American and Caribbean (EU-LAC) countries.