EHRA and team of researchers presented and discussed assessment findings of opportunities for optimal access to mental health care services for people who use drugs in the CEECA region. This exploratory study inquired as to how mental health care services are rendered to people who use psychoactive substances in the region of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA) region.
Data for this study were collected during in-depth research of the situation in four selected countries of the region: Czechia, Estonia, Moldova and Poland. This was followed by an analysis of research publications/literature on mental health services and services available for selected target groups. In addition, semi-structured interviews were conducted with health service providers, harm reduction service staff and patients/clients. Reflections on the situation in the region were also utilised from a multidisciplinary expert group meeting, ‘On barriers, challenges and needs on accessing mental health care and support services for people who use drugs during COVID-19, people who use new psychoactive substances (NPS), as well as migrants and refugees’.
Although all four participating countries of the study have relatively developed structures of both mental health and treatment facilities for people who use psychoactive substances, all of them find significant obstacles when mental health services are needed for people who use psychoactive substances, as integration of these services has not yet become a reality. Similarly, although mental health care is expected to start at the primary level of healthcare, only in some countries are general practitioners ready to provide an initial assessment of the mental health status of a patient.
The study team believes that the assessment findings and recommendations can be used as background for improving harm reduction programmes, and specific health and social care programmes for people who use psychoactive substances (including Ukrainian refugees) to achieve optimal access to mental health care. It could be used to overcome systematic barriers created by mental healthcare authorities and for improving cooperation between agencies providing – or those who could potentially provide – mental health care support to people who use psychoactive substances.
During the launch of the report lead researcher Dr. Tatiana Andreeva, PHD presented key regional findings of the assessment, barriers, and recommendations common for all EECA region. Country researchers presented situation in Estonia, Moldova and Poland. Discussion of opportunities and possible next steps for integration of mental health and HIV response and harm reduction.
With this research, we hope to start systematic advocacy to integrate harm reduction and systems of provision of mental health support. We need to change the systems and approaches to stop “football by people”, sending people in pain between institutions and organizations supposed to help.