SÜTIK, a new pilot programme of the National Institute for Health Development (TAI) and the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) will give police officers the option to direct addicts arrested for the abuse or possession of small amounts of illegal narcotics to a support programme.
The programme aims at fentanyl and amphetamine addicts, and participation is voluntary and free of charge.
The support person assigned to any individual participating in the program has the task to help them deal with problems caused by narcotics abuse as well as find the necessary services for them, for example a place to live, gainful employment, advice from a therapist, help with debt management, and medical care to back them up in their fight against drug addiction.
Addicts participate for at least one year, and as a result are hoped to become better at dealing with their own addiction, and to take fewer risks.
Programme to be extended if Tallinn pilot successful
According to Aljona Kurbatova, in charge of TAI's drug abuse and infectious diseases prevention centre, the pilot programme is being set up in Tallinn. In case it should succeed, it would then be extended to cover the whole country.
"Drug addiction is a disease that can and has to be cured. Punishing a drug user doesn't solve any problems, doesn't address the reason why the person in question became addicted in the first place, and doesn't get the addict to kick their habit either. Because of that, plenty of states, for instance Portugal, have taken up damage control and support programs to address the social and psychological issues," Kurbatova said.
She added that most drug users come out of a part of society no different from the norm. "They have families. 40% of people in Estonia who regularly inject drugs have children, and a fifth of them actually live with their families. Helping the user also means helping the people around them," Kurbatova explained.
Police: Offering addicts early way out important
As chief of the North Police Prefecture's criminal division, Urmet Tambre explains, there are thousands of injecting addicts in Estonia that have been socially marginalised due to their addiction.
"In many cases these are people who are stuck, they are unable to look for help and don't see any way out of their situation. They need someone to listen to their worries, and who helps them make the first steps towards finding a solution and to improve their lives," Tambre said.
The programme now gives these people the option to call a support person who can immediately offer advice to the drug user, and do so in a safe environment.
"They can offer specific solutions. If this intervention happens quickly and help is close by, we can better support drug users in their effort to start a new life," Tambre added.
Programmes also available without police referral
SÜTIK is adding to the authorities' existing efforts to tackle drug addition. Earlier this year, TAI and PPA launched a programme aiming at preventing the consumption and abuse of cannabis-based and analogous drugs, called VALIK ("choice" in English). Much like SÜTIK, police have the option to point drug users to the support program rather than starting a criminal proceeding.
VALIK is freely accessible also without going through PPA. The program is run by MTÜ Peaasjad and can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone or text message to 51 63 356. Lines are open from 9.00 to 17.00 EEST.
The same rule applies for the SÜTIK support programme. Contacts: 58 844 225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor: Dario Cavegn