Pompidou Group 2024 Thematic Training

Improving access to and quality of treatment services: a fundamental step in addressing substance use disorders and related mental health problems

During the Pompidou Group training session in Bologna, Italy

The Council of Europe International Cooperation Group on Drugs and Addiction, known as the Pompidou Group, is the co-operation platform of the Council of Europe on matters of drug policies – The Pompidou Group organizes yearly training sessions that provide addiction professionals with an opportunity to have a hands-on training on various themes, and to meet colleagues stemming from all over Europe – Photo Pompidou Group, all rights reserved

By Marta Santos – Addressing substance use disorders and associated mental health problems effectively is as complex as it is essential in today’s societies. Doing so in an effective manner requires not only a holistic approach, but also a coordinated effort to improve access to and quality of treatment services. This was the theme of this year’s Pompidou Group thematic training.

The first module of this annual training was held in Bologna, Italy, from 12 to 15 March. The session brought together 33 participants working in the field of drug treatment in nineteen EU Member States, all committed to addressing and improving available treatment strategies.

During the intensive programme, participants received up-to-date information on a variety of treatment approaches, formats and intervention modalities. Discussions were also held on medication-assisted treatment for different types of substance use disorders.

One of the highlights of the training was the exploration of therapeutic communities as an effective treatment approach. Therapeutic communities (TCs) provide a supportive and rehabilitative environment that aims not only to stop substance use, but also to promote social reintegration and mental health. During the discussions, it became clear that TCs have the potential to play a significant role in reducing relapse rates and promoting long-term recovery.

Another important theme was how treatment can serve as a viable alternative to imprisonment for people with substance use disorders. In many cases, the criminalisation of drug use has been rightly criticised for failing to address the underlying causes of addictive behaviour and for perpetuating a cycle of stigma and marginalisation. In contrast, a focus on treatment offers a more humane and effective approach to addressing the root causes of the problem, with the aim of helping people to become productive members of society.

Visit at San Patrignano

Visit organized at the San Patrignano therapeutic community during the 2024 annual training of the Pompidou Group in Bologna (Italy) – Photo: Pompidou Group, all rights reserved

As part of the session’s activities, participants had the opportunity to visit the San Patrignano therapeutic community. This internationally recognised community gave participants an overview of its innovative work in the field of drug rehabilitation, with practical and inspiring insights into how therapeutic communities can promote recovery and transform lives.

In addition to the formal training sessions, the event provided a valuable opportunity for networking and sharing experiences among participants. The diversity of perspectives and experiences within the group enriched the discussions and allowed participants to learn from each other.

As the first module drew to a close, it became clear that improving access to and quality of treatment services is a complex but essential challenge. Progress in this direction will require continued commitment from governments, health institutions and society at large.

However, the benefits of investing in treatment are undeniable, not only in terms of public health, but also in terms of social justice and human well-being.

Ultimately, events such as the Pompidou Group‘s annual thematic training are essential to driving progress in this crucial area. By bringing together experts, health professionals and policy-makers, these sessions provide a platform for knowledge exchange, collaboration and the development of effective strategies to address substance-related challenges. With a multifaceted approach and a renewed commitment to health and well-being, significant progress is expected in the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders.

The second module of the Pompidou Group Executive Training will take place in Rabat, Morocco, from 14 to 17 May and will focus on strategies to improve continuity of care, integration of treatment services, combating stigma and discrimination, and managing treatment services under difficult financial conditions.