The latest Pompidou Group publication, prepared together with Correlation - European Harm Reduction Network, contributes to efforts in continuing service delivery for people with drug dependences, while respecting their human rights. It does so by
giving a voice to people who use drugs and other marginalised and underserved communities, as well as health and social workers delivering services under challenging conditions to bring the COVID-19 outbreak to an end,
– says João Castel-Branco Goulão, National Drug Coordinator for Portugal and current Chair of the Pompidou Group in the preface of the publication.
The interviews, articles and reports in the publication showcase valuable experiences and approaches to fight the pandemic across countries, seen through the eyes of frontline workers and the people who benefit from their services. This makes the publication a valuable source of information not only for drug treatment and harm reduction professionals who can learn from other’s lived experiences, but also for policy makers. They can increase their understanding of the situation and needs of those with whom they mostly have indirect contact – the people who use drugs and outreach workers – in complex environments such as a pandemic, and translate knowledge into action.
Experts from the Pompidou Group, Correlation European Harm Reduction Network, German Aids Organisation and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) also explain why the continuation of drug treatment and harm reduction services is essential during a pandemic and what we can learn from innovative solutions implemented by those services.
In an outlook on the practical value of the work accomplished with this publication, Denis Huber, Executive Secretary of the Pompidou Group explains:
In every crisis there lies an opportunity for change and improvement. […] One step in that direction is to identify examples of promising practice and to evaluate innovations made during the pandemic. This includes policy changes aimed at improving and simplifying accessibility to services for people who use drugs, including re-thinking dispensing rules for substitution medications.
The publication builds on practice examples from 21 countries submitted on the Save Lives - Protect People platform, which was launched by the Pompidou Group in April 2020 as a contribution to meeting the challenges for drug policy related services, resulting from the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the vulnerable group of people who use drugs.