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Punjab govt launches initiative to tackle drug addiction among jail inmates

Chandigarh (Punjab) : To tackle drug addiction among jail inmates, the Punjab government in partnership with the Special Task Force (STF) on Friday launched a Peer Support Network with substance use disorder (SUD). Jails Minister Harjot Singh Bains said, "These 19 prisons cater to more than 95% of the addict prisoners and the Peer Support Network will be extended to the rest of the 6 jails in near future." He said that Peer Support is one of the 3 essential pillars of the Outpatient Opioid Assisted Treatment (OOAT) model i.e. medication, peer support and counselling and it is vital in assisting victims of drug abuse by staying away from drugs and undergoing successful de-addiction treatment. Minister further said that it is an important part of the recovery process as per evidence-based best practices at the national and international levels. "Peer Support network will be established in association with Narcotics Anonymous (NA), an international non-profit fellowship and society for helping men and women to tackle drug abuse. The fellowship does not promote itself, but rather attracts new members through public information and outreach," he added. Narcotics Anonymous uses a 12-step model developed for people with varied substance abuse disorders. NA suggests that drug addiction can be prevented and recovery is possible through the NA 12-step program. Bains said, "In this field, it has 70000 active volunteers who are spread over 144 countries including India where it has an extensive network wherein meetings are held regularly in Punjab."The Minister said that peer support meetings in jails have been launched by various teams of NA with about 1540 inmates attending these in 19 jails. Each team of NA consists of 4-5 volunteers, who will hold the meetings in 19 shortlisted jails for a few days every week. The frequency of meetings will be increased once the number of attendees who are willing to join the Peer Support Network rises. The volunteers of NA are organising meetings in Jails without charging any fees their sole aim is to provide support to those with substance use disorders (SUD)/addicts. It is aimed to eventually train inmates on how to run meetings themselves as per the NA system. Written material/literature printed in the jail press will be circulated to jail inmates who need this support. At the state level, it is aimed to gradually establish the peer support network in all de-addiction centres and rehabilitation centres and Out Patient Opioid Assisted Treatment (OOAT) clinics in the State. The minister expressed his gratitude to the Punjab wing of Narcotic Anonymous for coming forward and organizing these meetings in jails on very short notice in synergy with the special task force and the jails department. The Minister said, "Effective implementation of peer support is a part of the OOAT system and its implementation had remained pending since 2017. However, with the present step, a major milestone has been achieved in establishing the peer support network." Bains while acknowledging the work done by the officers, staff of the Jail Department and the Special Task Force, appreciated the contribution of Addl. Chief Secretary (Jails) KAP Sinha, IAS and HS Sidhu IPS SDG Prisons in taking the initiative to establish the peer support network in jails.

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