Drug primary and secondary prevention in Georgia: Promoting integrated approach

Darejan (Jana) Javakhishvili (Global Initiative on Psychiatry – Tbilisi, Mental Health Projects Coordinator for South Caucasus and Central Asia, Georgia). Poster presentation.

Primary and secondary Drug prevention in Georgia was an unknown field in the Soviet past. After becoming independent, the so called State Drug Addiction Prophylaxis Program was in place since 1995, but due to the Soviet inertia, it was focused mainly on drug intoxication examination of the citizens performed randomly by police. Examination followed punishment was naively considered as the tool for both primary and secondary prevention. The situation changed since 2002, when the Southern Caucasus Anti Drug Program (funded by European Union, implemented by the United National Development Program) introduced new evidence based approaches to primary and secondary drug prevention in the country. Namely, prevention was defined as drug education, developing knowledge, skills and attitudes to resist drugs (1) and, targeted work on increasing protective factors and decreasing risk factors influencing child/adolescent and his psycho-emotional-cognitive-behavioural growth (2). To implement primary and secondary prevention in the school setting, a special methodological tool – a school internal drug policy approach was introduced to the professional community; In parallel, starting from 2002, till today, work is going on to create institutional mechanisms for provision of evidence based within primary and secondary prevention on a regular basis. This special integrated approach is promoted and lobbied at the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia to create an “institutional chain” to respond to primary and secondary drug prevention related needs in the country. Namely, drug education for school teachers, administrations and psychologists, drug education for children (included into school curricula) and extra-curricular and community activities supported by the municipality are components of the integrated approach. Though for the moment there is no municipal drug policy in place. We choose as a starting point to work on a public school level; This work started with a needs assessment: focus groups were conducted in 10 public schools in Tbilisi, with participation of 150 school teachers, 80 parents and 150 teenagers in the age 13-17. The focus groups revealed that school teachers are not informed enough about drugs and believe that prevention is needed but should be done by parents. Neither parents were informed enough regarding drugs and like the teachers, believed that prevention should be performed by the school. In contrast, teenagers had a lot of information on drugs (the types, names, effects, etc.) received from non-reliable sources and lacking right information on drug related risks; Based on the needs revealed, a school drug policy handbook for school administrations, teachers, psychologists and future psychologists was elaborated and published, which contains basic information on drugs and related risks as well as a manual on how to elaborate and put in place a school drug policy to promote primary and secondary drug prevention. The handbook was piloted in 30 schools of Tbilisi and accompanied by the relevant training for schools’ teachers and administrations. The presentation will describe the key points, lessons learned out of this work and corresponding policy implications.

CV: Darejan (Jana) Javakhishvili´s education: 1979-1984 – Tbilisi State University, Faculty of Philosophy; Psychology, diploma of Psychologist. 1985-1986 – Post graduate exams in General Psychology, English Language and Philosophy, certified. 2003 and 2004 – Epidemiology training by EMCDDA REITOX Academy, Lisbon and Ankara. Certificate. Etc.; Ms. Javakhishvili has following professional Experience: Global Initiative on Psychiatry, manager and methodological supervisor of the project Mental Health and HIV-AIDS in South Caucasus, Central Asia and South East Europe, Research supervisor for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, 2006-2010. Drug Information/Prevention Expert (2007-2009) and National Focal Point on Drug Information (2003-2006), South Caucasus Anti Drug Program. Psychologist at the Foundation for Development of Human Resources, 1995-2006. Psychotherapist and researcher at Georgian Research Institute on Addiction, 1990-1995; She was an invited facilitator at The Third and the Second National Conferences of Georgian Harm Reduction Network, Tbilisi, February, 2010 and International Conference “Science, Compassion and Security: Towards a Pragmatic National Drug Policy”, October 2005, Tbilisi. Training for school teachers in primary drug prevention, organized by Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, 2008-2009, Tbilisi.