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Over 30 representatives from North, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, including Jamaica, are in the island for a three-day meeting to discuss and explore solutions for the drug phenomenon in the region.

The high level meeting, which opened on Wednesday (March 2) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, and lasts until Friday (March 4), has been convened by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), in collaboration with the Inter-American Drug Abuse Commission (CICAD) of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Multi-national Security Secretariat.

Both groups have partnered with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) to host the meeting, which is designed to share findings on the existence of, and the extent to which the drug phenomenon is addressed in the curricula and activities of Caribbean universities.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Maureen Irons-Morgan, alluded to a project entitled: ‘CICAD/University Partnership Project’, which CICAD commenced implementing in collaboration with Latin American universities since 1997, which focuses on education, outreach and research, among other activities, as regard drug demand reduction and substance abuse control.

She said the CICAD/CARICOM regional meeting with Caribbean universities has been organised with the objective of developing a similar project in the region.

Expounding on the three key focus areas, Dr. Irons-Morgan said the educational component is expected to entail incorporation of relevant information about drugs in the undergraduate and post-graduate curricula of different academic areas, faculty development and monitoring evaluation systems.

The outreach component, she said, will involve development of health promotion and drug abuse prevention activities at the community level, while the “very important” research component will facilitate the implementation of studies on drug related issues, according to the priority of each participating country.

“The Ministry of Health recognises the importance of integrating these issues related to substance prevention into the academic development of our university students. It is, in fact, these students who will become our leaders, movers, policy makers and practitioners at different levels all across the Caribbean. The Ministry wholeheartedly welcomes and supports this initiative of CICAD, the University of West Indies, other universities, and the NCDA, and pledge to give the necessary support to facilitate this process,” she assured.

Programme Manager for CARICOM’s Sustainable Development Secretariat, Beverly Reynolds, who also spoke, said that the need to build specialised capacity in the area of drug demand reduction, was recognised from as far back as 2002 when the regional drug demand reduction strategy was developed. The strategy, she said, was presented to the regional Health Ministers at the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSAD).

“We are pleased to be associated with this move, which has been spearheaded by CICAD. Over the next three days it will be intense. But I believe it is going to be rewarding,” Ms. Reynolds said.

 

CONTACT: DOUGLAS McINTOSH