In December, 2018, the Estonian Gambling Tax Council approved the application by the non-profit NGO LUNEST for creating a system of free legal help for drug users and their families in the Ida-Viru County of Estonia.
Funded by the state, self-financed by LUNEST, and carried out in cooperation with the legal office OÜ SIDIV, a service providing free legal advice to drug users, people living with HIV and their families called LUNEST-SIDIV will become available in the Northeast of Estonia in 2019.
In addition to solving the legal problems of the clients, the project aiming to provide free legal consultations as well as peer support services to 150 people a year should raise legal awareness among people who use drugs, people living with drug addiction, people living with HIV, and their families in the Northeast of Estonia, as well as provide the most thorough review yet of the actual problems of drug users, their families and loved ones in the region.
According to the plan approved by the Gambling Tax Council, lawyers will provide free legal advice once a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Narva at Linda Street 4, and in Jõhvi at Rakvere Street 5a. Peer support services, including counselling will be provided at both the aforementioned locations personally, or online, from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. An exact schedule will be confirmed in January of 2019. In order to register to the service, clients can call the number +372 5331 7025.
Recommendations and suggestions for resolving the issues identified will be composed on the basis of the analysis of the results of the project, and submitted to ministries and state bureaus, municipal bodies and public organizations involved in addressing similar problems.
“Due to their psychological peculiarities and deterioration of their social skills, people living with a substance use disorder are usually not capable of following recommendations, including advice regarding state-funded legal support,” Elena Antonova, head of the NGO LUNEST explained the need for the specific legal advice service. “The existing state-funded legal help system, on the other hand, is not ready to work with such people; the regional representatives of that system have neither enough time nor resources.”
According to Antonova, there is urgent need in the Northeast of Estonia for a coordination center involving both public organizations as well as law enforcement agencies that would monitor the rights of people using drugs in the region, identify obstacles and problems in the work done with them, and provide solutions to drug-related harm reduction issues. “Cooperation between LUNEST and the law office OÜ SIDIV provides an opportunity to more widely and objectively assess and analyze the situation in the field of securing the legal rights and freedoms of the people who use drugs, as well as make more informed decisions on the basis of that,” said Antonova. “In addition, this cooperation makes it possible to identify the problems and obstacles to which the state needs to find solutions.”
Information gathered through the legal help and peer support program LUNEST-SIDIV will be submitted to public organizations and state bodies involved in the field. On the basis of the analysis of the data, suggestions and recommendations will be made for creating effective programs of assistance needed by and suitable for the people who use drugs and their loved ones in the future.
According to one of the guiding principles of the NGO LUNEST, in order to help a person living with a substance use disorder, direct and personal contact with them has to be established first. It is equally important to counsel both the person living with addiction as well as their loved ones in everything from acquiring social assistance to finding psychological support. Association LUNEST has the specific skills and know-how for constructively communicating with people living with addiction and/or HIV. The association includes many people who have been addicted in the past and have the experience needed to understand how to implement an individual approach, find the causes of the problems, and choose the means to overcome them.