In 2021 and 2022, SCDI in Vietnam and Mainline can continue to strengthen and expand the available harm reduction offer for people who use meth-amphetamines. After establishing the regional field lab in 2019 and 2020 we now have the opportunity to push this innovative initiative to the next level. One important element: to improve and expand the community mental health response. Moreover, the skills that were built in Hanoi’s field lab are ready to be further disseminated across the South East Asian Region.
The stimulant field lab
Starting in late 2018, Mainline and Supporting Community Development Initiatives (SCDI) designed a response to the increased use of meth-amphetamine in Vietnam and its neighbouring countries. Our joint efforts led to the establishment of the Hanoi Field Lab for stimulant drugs (‘the Stimulant Field Lab’): a regional expertise and learning centre for stimulant harm reduction.
Harm reduction for stimulants
Several interventions for people who use meth-amphetamine are now in place in Hanoi and complement the existing harm reduction offer for people who inject heroin:
- Tailored outreach strategies for subgroups who use meth
- Stimulant drugs: commodities and counseling
- HIV, HCV, HBV, STI counceling, treatment and care (incl. PreP and safe sex counseling)
- Motivational interviewing
- Behavioural change messages and IEC materials
- Contemplation groups and community sessions
- Community mental health response
The Addiction Technology Transfer Centre of the Hanoi Medical University, evaluated the work on stimulant harm reduction in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
The evaluation highlighted one important organisational challenge, namely the high staff turnover. This turnover was found to negatively impact the number of beneficiaries with access to stimulant harm reduction.
In terms of service delivery, beneficiaries indicated to have an even greater need for mental health support. This is in line with the concerns the outreach teams across Vietnam brought forward: they reported challenges around mental health screening and around the implementation of mental health interventions. Moreover, the shortage of available mental health services in the two cities made it difficult for outreach staff to refer clients to appropriate services.
New ambitions, building blocks
For the upcoming follow-up projects, we decided to prioritise the following activities:
- Strengthening the community mental health response
- Expanding local training capacity to tackle high staff turn-over and enable SCDI to welcome visitors
- Developing and implementing a COVID-proof, blended learning training package for CBOs across the region
- Facilitation of 6 study visits from CBOs based in neighbouring countries
Major interest, broad support
The innovative approach in Hanoi attracted attention and a broad interest from CBOs across the region. The Field Lab fits a major need for a cost-efficient and humane response to the increased use of meth-amphetamines in Asia. Donors are also recognising this need. Service delivery for people who use stimulants across Vietnam can continue with thanks to Expertise France’s 5% initiative. And recently, ViiV Healthcare decided to invest in a number of activities in the coming years:
- for SCDI to further strenthen the training modules and to add a module on chemsex to the stimulant field lab;
- for SCDI to produce evidence on how to prevent HIV infections among people who use meth-amphetamines;
- for SCDI to implement harm reduction services and in the process develop a blueprint or implementation manual for CBOs in the region.
Are you interested in this project and would you like to know more? Please contact Ancella Voets. For those with interest in our training offer, you can contact Simon Williams.