Drug User Organisations lead partners in new European Peer Support Manual
Here is a summery from the recent Correlation meeting that a number of European activists participated in over several days in Amsterdam this June.
Correlation is a European Network for Social Inclusion and Health. It focuses on marginalised populations such as people who use drugs, sex workers, lesbian and gay people, Romany populations, migrants etc. The organisation is funded by the European Union to draw together expertise from specialists that can be framed in best practice guidelines, training programmes and policy interventions. Positively, Correlation is very welcoming of drug user organisations and activists and it is one of the partners in the European Harm Reduction Network that would include specific funding to support the beginning of a European Network of People who Use Drugs (ENPUD).
The Correlation Meeting works by bringing together a number of specialists to discuss various topics who then work on a series of development themes over two years. This year, themes in this round included:
* Outreach and early interventions
* E-Health Strategies
* Peer Support
* Hepatitis C
* Policy – HIV/AIDS
We had other friends from the harm reduction and drug law reform movements in various events although the main focus for many of us INPUDers was the stream on peer support. This group will be reviewing and re-writing the European Peer Support Manual that is now over 15 years old. The manual was one of the early harm reduction resources that actively promoted engagement with our community. The European Peer Support Manual was developed by Franz Trautman from the Trimbos Institute based on his learning and engagement with and from, Theo van Dam’s No Risk Project.
Academically, Franz has drawn a clear distinction between peer education (professionally designed interventions that use peers to distribute their messages) and peer support (a collaborative process that engages the target audience in both the design and delivery of the intervention). This stream of work will be led by John Peter Kools who was one of the co-founders of Mainline, a community development agency and magazine that worked in partnership with the drug using community in Amsterdam.
Significantly the two partners in the peer support stream of work are the Swedish Drug Users Union and ASUD. The working group had Berne, Fabrice, Theo, Jean Paul Grund, Jason Farrell and myself from the drug users movement. I am representing my freelance training, consultancy and research agency, the Gold Standard Team, although obviously we got to talk more about INPUD. There is an offer for INPUD to become a sponsor of the eventual resource.
This work shows the recognition of our community as experts in this area rather than being there as ‘peers’. The quality of the work from drug user organisations and activists was recognised and acknowledged and the progress with INPUD was also discussed and welcomed.
The work itself will unfold over two years and Berne, Fabrice and I will all be facilitating events back in our respective countries in support of this process. It is likely that there will be some type of working process alongside the Liverpool Harm Reduction Conference. Importantly the final resource will be produced in all the European languages and the working group has decided to develop the resource so it has application outside Europe. If anyone has resources on peer support then please send them to any of us in the group and we can ensure they are considered by the group and hopefully be included in a resources directory.
Three Men NOT In A Boat (quote from Fabrice!)
On Friday evening, Correlation laid on a 4 hour boat trip around Amsterdam. However, Jason, Fabrice and I went to meet MDHG, the first hard drug users union in Europe. We met with Willemijn Los, the co-ordinator of MDHG and, Joss Vermeer, one of MDHG’s Board Members. We talked about INPUD and the importance of MDHG becoming an active partner in the European Network of People who Use Drugs and in INPUD more broadly. Joss has agreed to encourage a core group of MDHG members to come and join the INPUD Members Forum. We also talked about the importance of the Dutch drug users movement being actively engaged in international advocacy given the significance of the Dutch Government as advocates for harm reduction on the world stage. Joss talked about the benefits for MDHG of engaging with INPUD and she talked about her desire for MDHG to have a stronger international focus. We agreed to work together to approach the Dutch Government’s international development department for funding to support international advocacy from people who use drugs.
We also met Tatjaha Stamatovic a drug user activist from Serbia who has been working with Nora Stojanovik before she stopped working in Belgrade and returned to Macedonia. As ever, it was incredibly impressive to meet a sister activist who is working in the most difficult of conditions but still delivering needle exchange and fighting hard for opioid substitution therapies despite the delays of bureaucrats.
We were also working with professional colleagues from Finland and Slovakia. Both run peer support programmes. There is a desire to encourage these peer support programmes to evolve into drug user groups. However, language remains a key barrier so as a stepping stone to local leaders emerging, and as an interim option, we have secured contact with the two harm reduction workers who will work with us to engage local drug users from Finland and Slovakia in INPUD. It also means INPUD members can support the development of these groups on the ground. One of the Finnish peer workers did attend the Correlation event and people in this project also came to Copenhagen.
Preparing for UNAIDS PCB
I am now in Geneva about to go at meet Erin for the first of our meetings in preparation for the UNAIDS PCB tomorrow. We’ll keep on blogging.
NOTE: Jan 2012 – The Peer Involvement guide is completed and has been launched as an interactive, informative and resourceful website which will keep updating and reflecting peoples experiences as it is used more. It has been created by working extremely closely with the drug using community and peer involvement workers. Click here for more details and a link to the website.