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ID: HR23-464
Presenting author: Nicharee Pornsittisup

Presenting author biography:

Nicharee Pornsittisup has worked in Harm Reduction for 2 years and community-methadone service collaborate with community hospital.

Community Led Methadone Therapy Centre for Ethnic Highland Populations in Northern Thailand Local Solutions Driven by Non-Government Programs

Nicharee Pornsittisup
Thailand’s remote highland areas are challenging for programs designed for people who inject drugs. The local people include ethnic populations, many with cultures that include opium use. Chiang Rai province is part of the Golden Triangle connecting Thailand, Myanmar and Laos PDR. As a result, many of the younger populations have switched from opium use to newer types of drugs including heroin and use of needles and syringes. "Methadone Therapy Centre in Community" is operated by People for Change Group is a local community based organization running the outreach services for drug users who understand their identities, culture and can communicate in ethnic languages, creating a safe space with welcoming services. Drug users were consulted on interest to receive methadone that was without pressure, stigmatization or strict restrictions. The team convinced each drug user to set methadone-taking goals. They talked with community leaders, defining the community's participation and support. They coordinated with the hospital agreeing on clear roles, purpose and collaboration for shared performance. 4 community methadone centres began operating in 2021. 17% (149/887) of treatment receivers were injecting drugs. 130 male, 19 female and 5 youths. 100% methadone previously using drugs stayed on treatment system and remained contactable. The centers provided comprehensive services including health, hairdressing, skill development and individual support. The communities show less stigmatization towards drug users and realize the importance of supporting drug users who can be valuable human resources to the community. Drug users helped in promoting the friendly service through word-of-mouth referrals. The outstanding benefit was the safe service close to home reducing fear of being arrested during the journey. They could take methadone before work and get to work on time. The local team were on hand to answer any questions in their ethnic languages.