Development of therapeutic communities for opiate addicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and presentation of work of the Association PROI

Samir Ibisevic (Association PROI, Bosnia and Herzegovina). Poster presentation.

In the beginning of sixties, Croatian professor Vladimir Hudolin created an innovative approach to treatment of alcohol addiction in the former Yugoslavia. The Club System for Treated Alcoholics, rooted in the AA movement, opened doors of psychiatric clinics and took patients out to the local community setting. It was a union of self-help and public support. Under his influence, a couple of year later, Dr. Himzo Polovina, director of the Sarajevo Psychiatric Clinic starts to run similar groups in Sarajevo. At that time he used term “therapeutic community” (TC) to describe methods in treatment of alcohol addiction where patients play a double role – therapist and patient; Until 1991, TC approach in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH) was applied to threats of alcohol addiction and some of less severe mental disorders. In 1992 Catholic Sister Elvira Petrozzi arrived from Italy to Medjugorje (BH), with group of residents of her faith-based TC “Cenacolo”. It was a lone residential TC operated in BH in the period from 1992-2002; In 2002 and 2003 two new TCs were founded in BH. Their programs were imported from Italy (CEIS) and Croatia (Community Incontro). Most of their residents were from neighbouring countries. In May 2005, NGO “Association PROI” from Sarajevo established a first Bosnian grass-root TC based on Daytop model. This was a possible thanks to Association PROI director’s four months internship at Daytop USA in 2002. Currently, 20 residents undergo the 18 months residential treatment program. This is unique concept based TC which is entirely managed by recovered addicts. Development and operation of the program confronts a numerous obstacles, which includes financing, staffing, program monitoring and evaluation and non-existence/non implementation of a national drug strategy or adequate drug policy.

Beside therapeutic community, up to date Association PROI has implemented the number of projects to improve the quality of life of drug addicted persons, to reduce spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, fight against stigma and to provide evidence-based facts about size and prevalence of drug addiction and related harm. Some of these projects are:

  • “Implementation of two bio-behavioral survey research studies on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, syphilis, Hepatitis B and C, and HIV risk behavior among injection drug users (IDU) in Bosnia and Herzegovina” in 2007 and 2009.
  • Scale up IEC/BCC (Informational and Educational Communication/Behavioral Changed Communication) in populations with increased risk for HIV/AIDS infection - Objective 2 of Bosnia and Herzegovina proposal to Global Fund. Period of implementation June 2007 to December 2011, funded by Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Project aim: To reduce harm caused by risk behavior among injection drug users and female sex workers in Federation of BiH and Brcko District.

CV: Samir Ibisevic was born on 25th December 1964; currently he is Undergraduate student in Addiction Study, University of Stirling, Scotland. In 2002 he graduated from Internship at Daytop Int. for organizing and management of a therapeutic community. From 2001-2010 he served as founder and Board President of Association PROI – Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He took active role in a number of workshops and conferences in NGO sector which are related to capacity building and prevention and treatment of drug addiction and related harm (22 and 23 WFTC conferences, International Harm Reduction Conferences, Warsaw 2007, Barcelona 2008, Bangkok 2009, needles and syringes exchanges program, prevention of HIV/AIDS among vulnerable populations, public advocacy campaign, policies and procedures, fund raising, financial managements...).