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Dear reader,

Welcome! Thank you for subscribing to ‘COVID-19 Stories of Substance’, IDPC’s new fortnightly newsletter.

As a member of this dedicated mailing list, you will receive a curated list of news and updates every two weeks, with a specific focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and its various impacts on the drug market, drug policy and related advocacy, harm reduction services, community-led mobilisation/movement, funding opportunities, and more.

Featured story: A step forward for harm reduction advocacy in India

This week, we bring you positive news from India, where government measures to respond to the pandemic have enabled take-home OST (methadone and buprenorphine) for the first time, including at a women-centric harm reduction site at the Kapurthala Civil Hospital, Punjab. According to Kunal Kishore of Alliance India:

“The take-home system was supposed to be approved over a year ago as part of the regular harm reduction service delivery system of the National AIDS Programme, so the proposal was already on the table even before the COVID-19 crisis hit. The COVID-19 pandemic, combined with concerns of withdrawals and overdose among the community, led to the fast-tracking of the take-home dose decision. Now, state-level forums of people who use drugs are working with organisations like Alliance India to allow this take-home system to continue after the pandemic.” 

However, the lockdown has brought serious challenges to community engagement and outreach. As communicated through IDPC’s COVID-19 survey, Alliance India’s Harm Reduction team have responded to this challenge by organising online meetings and forums to accommodate dialogue among and with people who use drugs, to facilitate consultations and counselling, as well as to identify and cater to the basic needs of people residing in more remote areas. 


Needle and syringe programme at a women-centric harm reduction site at the Kapurthala Civil Hospital, Punjab (Photo credit Alliance India)

Community-led advocacy, outreach work, and harm reduction service provision also continue in India’s urban areas, with particular attention given to homeless and street-based communities whose living situations and underlying health conditions make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.   
In Chennai, in collaboration with various community organisations, Tamil Nadu’s Drug Users Forum has linked “over 30 street-based homeless community members to OST services” and found innovative ways to help street-based people who use drugs to find shelter and access toilets and clean water. 

Harm reduction and other community organisations in Lucknow have also carried out important efforts to ensure the availability of lifesaving medications and services for people who use drugs, as well as for people living with HIV, viral hepatitis, and/or TB. Jayanta Kumar Singh, a long-time advocate for the human rights of people who use drugs, shares more inspiring examples in this blog post
 
We’ll be sharing more stories like this in the coming months. If you are interested in having us feature your work and/or experience, please consider participating in IDPC’s COVID-19 survey (available in English, Thai, Spanish, French). In case you wish to share your story in writing or via a one-on-one conversation, feel free to get in touch by emailing us at contact@idpc.net.

For now, we have selected a number of informative resources which we hope will help you stay up-to-date on COVID-19 and its impact on drugs and drug policy.
Top Picks
 

COVID-19 and mass incarceration
A webinar by TNI, IDPC, WOLA, and PRI

“We are tired of reimagining prisons. Our work is to reimagine communities,” said Andrea James, Executive Director of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. In the wake of community mobilisation against police and state violence in the United States and around the world, activists from different countries analysed strategies to end mass incarceration during and after COVID-19.

COVID-19 and illicit markets
A public event podcast by LSE

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted a wide array of economic activities across the globe. While consequences on formal economies appear well reported on mainstream media, the impacts on illicit drug markets remain unclear and unpredictable. Experts of different backgrounds break it down.

UN joint statement: Compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres in Asia and the Pacific in the context of COVID-19

A Joint UN Statement on compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres in Asia and the Pacific in the context of COVID-19 calls on UN Member States to permanently close compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres and implement voluntary, evidence-informed and rights-based health and social services in the community.

Prisons and detention in South-East Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America
Advocacy notes by IDPC

Prisons and detention facilities are a high-risk environment for the spread of COVID-19. Ensuring the safety and health of both prison staff and people deprived of liberty requires urgent action– as outlined in our regional advocacy notes on South-East Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.

News & Analyses
 
Upcoming (Online) Events
More on drug policy and COVID-19 on the IDPC website: News, Publications, Events.
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