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Keywords:

  •  European network;
  • professional association;
  • public and private services;
  • quality;
  • services development

ABSTRACT

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. ERIT-ITALIA: THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
  4. THE HAPHAZARD BIRTH OF NEW RESPONSES
  5. 1993: ERIT-ITALIA BEGINS
  6. ERIT-ITALIA's MAIN PURPOSES
  7. OFFICERS
  8. REFERENCE

What is ERIT-Italia? In what cultural context was it founded and in what state were the services for drug dependency at that time? What has it produced in recent years? Can a professional association successfully work alongside administrations and governments to contribute to the development of effective treatment for drug addiction? It is these questions which are addressed in this description of the major Italian professional body concerned with drug misuse.


ERIT-ITALIA: THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. ERIT-ITALIA: THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
  4. THE HAPHAZARD BIRTH OF NEW RESPONSES
  5. 1993: ERIT-ITALIA BEGINS
  6. ERIT-ITALIA's MAIN PURPOSES
  7. OFFICERS
  8. REFERENCE

A brief historical exploration is required to give a clear view of ERIT-Italia's background.

In 1975, a law was issued in Italy that de-criminalized the use of moderate amounts of narcotic and psychotrophic substances, and referred drug addicts (and users) to the public services.

However, the psychiatric services, which at that time were comprised almost exclusively of asylums, were going through a deep crisis. This reached its peak in 1978, with the proclamation of the so-called Basaglia Law, which decreed their closure and led to the subsequent radical reorganization of alternative structures. In the meantime, there was a considerable rise in social, cultural and criminal influences that favoured a huge increase in the number of drug users (initially concerning cannabis, LSD and heroin), with a consequent rise in social and health problems.

This situation meant that at the moment at which public attention was drawn to the ‘drugs problem’ and methods of how to reduce and treat it were examined, Italy was completely lacking in treatment services. The scientific–cultural debate that ensued, involving psychiatrists, led them to ‘abdicate from the drug addiction field, a situation that today they still have difficulty in reversing, although, in theory, it is their duty’ (Nizzoli 2000).

This was the situation that gave rise to hundreds of micro and macro solutions involving volunteers and, above all, the Catholic Church.

THE HAPHAZARD BIRTH OF NEW RESPONSES

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. ERIT-ITALIA: THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
  4. THE HAPHAZARD BIRTH OF NEW RESPONSES
  5. 1993: ERIT-ITALIA BEGINS
  6. ERIT-ITALIA's MAIN PURPOSES
  7. OFFICERS
  8. REFERENCE

The situation was exacerbated by the complete overhaul that the Italian National Health Service underwent in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This resulted in more confusion than resources when it came to the process of identifying and constructing prevention and treatment structures for the various stages of drug dependency: the ‘drug problem’ was more widespread in certain regions which were quicker than others to organize themselves. There were also regional differences regarding the names given to the structures: the embryos of today's SerT (drug dependency services) were called CTST in certain regions and NOT, CNOT, NAD, CAD or CAT elsewhere. At the beginning of the 1990s no effort had been made to render the situation more uniform or to co-ordinate the activities of the public and private services that had sprung up in a completely eclectic and random way throughout the nation (many in the North and an almost complete lack in the South).

The majority of these services was characterized by ideology, morality and inexperience. Due to scarce scientific experimentation and of rational organization of treatment processes the counsellors, who were often volunteers or chosen on a completely random basis, soon experienced early burnout.

Although in 1990 the Italian government issued Presidential Decree 309, the ‘exclusive text on the subject of narcotic and psychotrophic substances and the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of the relative stages of drug dependency’, the situation described above continued to characterize the Italian services for drug dependency and to a certain extent this is still the case. However, it can now be claimed that in increasing areas a network of services based on rationality, scientific concepts, excellence and total quality management has developed. Reggio Emilia's SerT was the first to obtain the ISO 9001 standard certificate (Det Norske Veritas, January 2000).

However, some good may have been caused by this situation. If there have been difficulties, this has been compensated for by the humanizing of treatment that is able to take into account important aspects such as individual or collective choices and the existential crises that form the psychic and relational soil in which pathological dependence evolves (Nizzoli 2000).

1993: ERIT-ITALIA BEGINS

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. ERIT-ITALIA: THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
  4. THE HAPHAZARD BIRTH OF NEW RESPONSES
  5. 1993: ERIT-ITALIA BEGINS
  6. ERIT-ITALIA's MAIN PURPOSES
  7. OFFICERS
  8. REFERENCE

It was within this context that in 1993, a group of 14 professionals (were they more expert? more idealist? more European?) from various services and regions gave birth to ERIT-Italia, with a legally valid Statute and Regulations drawn up in Milan.

In an effort to overcome the weaknesses in the Italian, and pehaps also European, operative structures, this period saw the establishment of associations in several European countries. ERIT-Italia was born a few months before ERIT ‘The Federation of European Professionals’ Associations Working in the Field of Drug Abuse’, of which it is an active founder member. However, the movement that led to the creation of ERIT had been in progress for several months. ERIT-Italia is a professional, legally founded and independent association. Although it is not the Italian delegation of ERIT, the choice of the same name testifies to their interdependence.

The acronym ERIT stands for Européen Reseau des Intervenants en Toxicomanie. ERIT-Italia participated in the Platform of Lisbon (1992), which recognizes drug addicts’ right to citizenship in the broadest sense of the term, promotes their access to treatment, takes part in the development of co-ordinated policies that meet requirements and pledges European governments that legislation gives priority to rehabilitation, prevention and treatment and promotes the imperatives of public health and the battle against social exclusion.

There was a widespread need for Europeanism in those early years:

The models of intervention in drug dependency are the fruit of the historical, cultural, institutional and legal contexts that are typical of each country and region . . . These models can not be exported, but their comparison through exchanges and concrete co-operation permits convergences and ways of harmonizing and common models to emerge. (Article 19, Platform of Lisbon)

In Italy exchanges are still difficult, as at the beginning of the 1990s the field was still characterized by conflict and opposition between public and private, clinical and residential services. An association between colleagues was essential if we were to have the strength to face the harsh reality that drug dependency is a serious illness that requires articulate, complex and specialized solutions. In order to establish solidarity with those who suffer and who turn to professionals in search of help, something tangible and concrete needed to be undertaken that included design of treatment methods, treatment courses, services and systems of services that are suitable and efficient.

Since 1993 ERIT-Italia members have grown to 203. ERIT-Italia members can be either individuals or services, therefore the 203 subscriptions involve approximately 400 people. Annual subscription is, of course, differential in cost. The Italian privacy law prevents us from publishing their names.

ERIT-ITALIA's MAIN PURPOSES

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. ERIT-ITALIA: THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
  4. THE HAPHAZARD BIRTH OF NEW RESPONSES
  5. 1993: ERIT-ITALIA BEGINS
  6. ERIT-ITALIA's MAIN PURPOSES
  7. OFFICERS
  8. REFERENCE

(We base this statement on our statutes.)

Encouraging the opportunities of exchange between members of the private and the public sector involved in treatment, drug abuse prevention and social rehabilitation. In the 8 years since its foundation, approximately 60 national and international study seminars have been organized in Italy, often supported by the European Union or Regional authorities (Tuscany, Puglia, Emilia-Romagna and Lazio) or the administrations of individual cities or provinces. Many have had the patronage of the Ministry of Health or the Ministry for Social Solidarity, the Prime Minister or in other cases the President of Italy. The topics dealt with concerned professional training, the construction and validation of treatment approaches and instruments, prevention, rehabilitation and detoxification. Particular attention should be drawn to the important work carried out on the ‘quality and evaluation’ of interventions. The Third European Congress for Professionals Working in the Field of Drug Abuse, organized in Bologna in 1998, attracted 802 participants. The active participation of many professionals in important European work and study initiatives has also been seen at the European conferences held in Liège (1993), Paris (1996) and Porto (2000); the T3E summer Universities of Poppi (1993), Covilha (1994), Dinard (1995), Rotterdam (1996), Bristol (1997), Brussels (1998), Athens (1999) and Palma de Majorca (2000). ‘Drug dependence between justice and health’, 6–7 July, Foggia, was the last European seminar. Members are eligible for discounts on registration fees.

Recognizing services and staff as important partners in the conduct of policy on drug abuse problems. This has been achieved by promoting contact with representatives of local, regional, national and European government, which in the last few years have come to recognize and value the association's work by officially sponsoring almost all of our important events.

Assisting the professional development of workers through research and training in treatment and prevention carried out in Italy and abroad. This has been possible through participation in research teams, experimentation and in work carried out by workers of various nationalities, and in recent years has led to the creation of numerous protocols and publications. We have welcomed foreign workers into the National Services. In cooperation with T3E (another European network), we have sent more than 100 workers from different professions to week-long visits to other countries.

Funds are raised mainly from subscription fees and contributions from public authorities, the remainder from specific initiatives and projects.

Since 1995, ERIT-Italia has published the scientific journal Personalità/Dipendenze, Mucchi Editore, Modena, which is issued three times a year. ERIT-Italia has a website (http://www.erit.org) and in recent years numerous publications have dealt with the problems of drug dependency.

OFFICERS

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. ERIT-ITALIA: THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
  4. THE HAPHAZARD BIRTH OF NEW RESPONSES
  5. 1993: ERIT-ITALIA BEGINS
  6. ERIT-ITALIA's MAIN PURPOSES
  7. OFFICERS
  8. REFERENCE

ERIT-Italia is a non-profit-making association and is governed by a Statute that includes the free election of the Board of Directors, Chairman and Vice-Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer. For 7 years the position of Chairman was occupied by Umberto Nizzoli, psychologist, psychotherapist and head of the Department of Pathologic Dependencies of Reggio Emilia (he was also the ERIT Chairman 96/98 and Vice-Chairman 98/2000); the Vice-Chairman was Roberto Bertolli, psychiatrist and Director of the private clinic Crest, in Milan. In May 2000, Vittorio Foschini, psychologist and psychotherapist at the SerT in Ravenna, was elected Chairman and the Vice-Chairman is now Ivan Colombo from the private Comunità Terapeutica Incontro of Pistoia.

REFERENCE

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. ERIT-ITALIA: THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
  4. THE HAPHAZARD BIRTH OF NEW RESPONSES
  5. 1993: ERIT-ITALIA BEGINS
  6. ERIT-ITALIA's MAIN PURPOSES
  7. OFFICERS
  8. REFERENCE
  • Nizzoli, U. (2000) Finalmente è nata ISAJE (ISAJE is finally launched). Personalità/Dipendenze, 6, III, 1