U.S., PHL stakeholders call for alternatives to incarceration for drug users

More than two hundred Filipino and foreign stakeholders recently adopted the Manila Declaration on Creating Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) Systems in the Philippines that calls for expanding access to evidence-based health treatment for drug users and implementing reforms towards a more efficient criminal justice system.

The Manila Declaration was announced during the 2nd National Conference of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP) Philippines National Chapter on the theme “Build, Better, Best: Building unified and synergized communities for the management of substance use,” organized by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), the Colombo Plan, and the Quezon City government from December 5 to 9.

During the conference, law enforcement personnel, drugs and substance use professionals, civil society groups, and other stakeholders discussed emerging issues on addiction management, including the accreditation of treatment professionals, training service providers and community workers, and ATI systems—innovative treatment models that address drug use by reducing the risk of relapsing into criminal behavior, providing evidence-based treatment, and ensuring adequate social integration.

“Our efforts align closely with the theme of this year’s conference because INL efforts include programs designed to build the capacity of drug prevention stakeholders; strengthen clinical skills and raise the standards of treatment and care; and train local community members to address drug-related matters,” INL Director Kelia Cummins said.  “By spending our time to learn and share, we are making a sound investment and bridging pathways to ensure that friends, families, community members, and society as a whole have what they need to not only survive, but to thrive.”

The Philippine Addiction Specialists Society (PASS) was also introduced as the new representative body of the ISSUP in the Philippines.  As a new partner of INL and ISSUP Global, PASS seeks to expand its membership to support a whole-of-nation approach to addressing drug challenges.

“We look forward to future partnerships in providing a safe and drug-free place for all,” Dangerous Drugs Board Chairman Secretary Catalino Cuy said as he welcomed the launch of PASS as the Philippine national chapter of ISSUP Global.  “This is a welcome development as we assist the government address the gap in service providers, particularly physicians and rehabilitation workers.”

With the support of the Quezon City government and ISSUP Global, more than 170 participants also benefited from a series of specialized courses conducted by local and foreign experts on themes such as counseling and case management, environment-based drug prevention intervention, and substance abuse treatment for women.

The 2nd ISSUP Philippines National Conference is part of a broader INL-sponsored, multi-year program with the Colombo Plan entitled “Enhancing of Treatment and Prevention Programs for the Philippines,” which aims to strengthen prevention and treatment services in the Philippines by enhancing human resource capacity and strengthening multidisciplinary approaches to addressing substance use.

Learn more about INL and its global drug demand reduction programs at www.state.gov/j/inl.