EU conference on drugs seeks joint collaboration in police, social and health work
Summing up the work of the EU conference on drugs, held in Turku 6-7 September, conference rapporteur Richard Ives said that a main objective identified is to align the goals of different organisations. “This is done through training, setting targets and performance indicators. It is important that common working aims are agreed in writing and by redefining success. These are the things that can take our work forward." He said that all the working groups of the conference had raised the common concern that the various authorities and organisations involved in work on drugs have differing goals.
A leading expert in the Council of Europe’s Pompidor Group, Richard Ives produced the report of the Turku conference based on the conclusions of its five working groups. The conference report thereby reflects five different perspectives and approaches to drug problem prevention and ways to improve the treatment of drug abusers. Finland will convey the conference report to the EU Commission and Council of Europe for follow-up. The conference also distributed presidency conclusions, which will be passed to the EU’s horizontal working group on drugs and to the council on justice and home affairs.
State Secretary Terttu Savolainen said that the conference working groups held discussions from five different angles, in which cooperation has been constructive on the importance of collaboration between different authorities. The working groups did not seek a common viewpoint, rather an exchange of experiences. They also shared information on different working models and approaches.
Network of authorities needed
The conference participants agreed that the creation of a cooperation network of authorities is necessary for the prevention of drug problems and to ensure the treatment of abusers. The Council of Europe’s Pompidor Group is expected to take on the creation and coordination of such a network. The conference made clear that if international collaboration falters and local authorities and act in ignorance of one another’s work, it is futile to present a common declaration on reducing drug problems.
Police and social authorities need to agree common working methods
Ideally, police and social workers should focus on drug use before it produces problem users. The conference discussed the special importance of reaching young drug users as early as possible. The working methods of police forces and social services differ, which means that a common challenge facing tem is to agree on forms of collaboration. When such collaboration is agreed in writing, it works, even if there are changes in personnel. In order for collaboration to work, such things as exchanges of information need to be arranged.
There have been good experiences gained from information exchange, when such information is exchanged on a need to know basis for each employee. The police do not need to have information of the health of drug users, nor do social services need information on their criminal background. But there is much general information that can be of help in breaking the cycle of clients’ drug dependency. There is in addition a need for exchanges of unofficial information and opinions.
Joint follow-up and further training create good bases for the police and social and health authorities to work in guiding the treatment of drug problems. Joint training events have set the basis for understanding one another’s working methods and working culture.
Treatment referral also is best achieved through cooperation by different authorities. Early intervention is a good start for treatment referral. The role of faith communities, workplaces, NGOs in addition to police and social and health services in treatment referral is decisive. They reach drug users at different points in their lives. When problems have persisted for long, there is a need to minimise the resultant harm, such as with low threshold services.
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health: Tapani Sarvanti, Ministerial Advisor, cell: 050 55535534, and Toivo Hurme, Project Coordinator, cell: 050 5245 7966
Ministry of the Interior: Reijo Pöyhönen, Head of Section for Police, cell: 0500 478413, Stefan Gerkman Administrative Officer for Police, cell: 050 557 6004.