LORENZO CAMOLETTO – BAONPS PROJECT MANAGER
The BAONPS project represented a significant element of breaking from the past when it began the practice of drug checking. Prior to this, even in the world of harm and risk reduction workers, the prevaling conviction was that it was impossible to propose formally, and therefore it was left in the drawer as one of those unrealizable dreams for public and private social and health services. It was offered only by organizations of activists and volunteeers.
The implementation of the service, thanks to the partnership with CNCA ( National Coordination of Care Centres), included interventions outside of the Piedmont territory as well as the participation of workers from other regions involved in the interventions in Piedmont. This promoted an invaluable learning-by-doing training context, which was not only connected to the technicalities of the practice but above all the application of this within the context of laws and procedures.
During the implementation period of the project and after, we registered a notable increase in interest from those working in this sector and also from public agencies and policy makers. In the second half of 2017 Parliament included the practices of harm reduction in the LEA ( Basic Levels of Assistance). This means that those practices must now be guaranteed by the national health services and their regional counterparts for all citizens.
The National Institute of Health- ISS– that is the public office delegated to manage the Italian Early Warining System- has concretely demonstrated interest by including the outreach project in the monitoring network with particular interest in drug checking.
The National CNCA, Itardd ( Italian harm reduction network), Lila ( Italian fight against Aids League), Forum Droghe and the networks of civil society interested in the practices of harm reduction, have prepared a platform of proposals that can be actuated for regional governments that indicate drug checking as an indispensible practice.
In particular the Health Department of Piedmont, the region where the BAONPS project was principally implemented, has announced the renewal of the NEUTRAVEL project (the outreach activity in which the BAONPS project was developed) expressely asking that drug checking is among the activities proposed.
Furthermore the same department of the Piedmont Region instituted an expert group to work on the proposal of implementing harm reduction services within the Basic Levels of Assistance. In the final document drug checking is indicated as an indispensable activity for outreach and low-threshold services working in contexts of psychotrophic drug use.
Drug checking has therefore moved from being a neglected practice by policy makers and an impossible dream for workers, which was prior to the BAONPS project, to being an actual practice shared in many areas and sustained by the interest of public institutions and policy makers.
We cannot credit the BOANPS project alone with such a radical success and paradigm change, even though embryonic, but neither is it possible to absolutely sustain a cause-effect principle. Probably the time was right for a change in this sector. Nonetheless there is a correlation between the right time and actual BAONPS project, the activities and the dissemination on the ground and the receptiveness of the health and political sectors. For these reasons we are extremely happy.