By Kristine Mozerte & Nikola Tilgale
Since 2000, the Municipality of Riga has implemented intensive and extensive addiction prevention programs targeting different population groups and professionals (i.e.: social workers, police officers, and teachers). As the public health data survey conducted by the municipality of Riga in 2013 (the ECAD study “Risk and protective factors effect on drug use/abuse among young people”, the study is conducted every two years since 2006) shows, then 67% of 15-16 years olds in Riga at least once during their lifetime have smoked cigarettes. 25% male and female adolescents in this age group are regular smokers.
Work against addiction and suicide prevention
According to the Public health strategy of Riga city, approved by the mayor of Riga city council in year 2012, one of the main goals of the strategy’s action plan (for the period 2012-2016) is to work in addiction and suicide prevention, acting both universal and selective level in order to identify those adolescents who experience various difficulties in school, which can lead to drug abuse or suicide. Another strategic goal of the Public health strategy is to create an environment and to take steps to promote healthy habits among the working- age population, including prevention of addictive substances.
Since one of the objectives of the Riga municipality is to create a society that is as free from addictive substances, gambling and excessive computer use, and to reduce the number of dependent people by involving them in recovery programs, then the objective of Riga municipality implements a complex set of measures, including both educational lectures for students, school personnel, social workers, police officers and further education programs for professionals, keeping anonymous hotline, website, implementing research and public awareness campaigns etc.
Creation of the Addiction Prevention specialist network
One of the directions of addiction prevention work in Riga city is the creation of the Addiction Prevention specialist network (hereinafter – APS network), which provides regular work and services in each administrative territory of the town (they have 3 divisions). The APS network – provides individual, group or family consultations for residents and specialists in addiction counseling related issues, they offer the clients support to get help and psychosocial adjustment groups. At the moment there are 5 APS specialists working in the Riga city municipality under the Riga city Social service. Riga city municipality ensures that there is one specialist in each region of the city, who provides the citizens of the city with the following service which is free of charge:
- Individual consultations (for adolescents and adults) in addiction – related issues.
- Group work with adolescents who are using addictive substances and/or are obsessed with addictive processes (computer games, gambling). The aim of the group work is to encourage young people to assess their substance use/gaming experience and to stop the processes.
- Group work with adults:
- Support for addictive person’s relatives – co – dependence support groups.
- Support groups for parents who need to improve family relationships, when they child’s behavior indicates a change in attitude, chemical or process use or other problems.
- Problem solving of individual cases in the schools of Riga city. The APS network are solving individual addictive substance using cases or addictive processes also the APS network is communicating with schools in Riga city to ensure the preventive work and each school has the possibility to get in contact with the APS network and receive consultations. In cases of substance using at schools APS proceed as follows:
- Assess the situation on the basis of the information received;
- If necessary the APS network specialists engages with the student involved in the situation and its family;
- Dealing with cases involving school staff (as appropriate), etc.
The advice and support groups are provided by addiction prevention professionals whose education is a social educator, social worker or psychologist.
The counseling and support groups provided by the municipality of Riga city and the specialists are free of charge in the nearest region of the city to be accessible for the clients.
The clients of the Riga city Social service when working together with APS network specialists can also receive the following service free of charge:
- Advice form a narcologist in cases where the case diagnosis is necessary for further motivation work;
- Advice form a pedagogue for students in cases of school absenteeism or in other reasons when assistance is needed to master the study material.