Representatives from Norway, Romania, Uzbekistan and Italy had an eventful week learning about the various services offered in Gozo. Among other places, they visited the OASI Foundation where they discussed drug and alcohol addiction and what are the services and help offered by the Foundation. Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana joined in the discussion and expressed her gratitude to the work carried out by the Foundation.
The OASI Foundation of Gozo, the Naxxar Local Council and Villa Arrigo, organized a National Conference under the Patronage of President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca. The topic covered in today’s conference was – Women and Addiction – Is the World of Addiction a Sexist One?
The President in her message stated that stakeholders need to have more information so as to have a better picture of the realities being faced by Maltese society. “There also needs to be less obstacles for women to find the help they need,” she said.
A number of professionals spoke about their experiences. The primary speaker, Prof. Marilyn Clark, said that women face different difficulties in regards to experiences of addiction and treatment.
She also indicated the gender gap for drug use has practically vanished. “There are various difficulties which hinder women seeking to stop using drugs more than men in the same position – these include social attitudes towards women,” said Prof. Clark.
During the first panel, Dr. Jeffrey Bonnici, who works at the Emergency Department at Mater Dei Hospital, said that people who entered the Emergency Department with issues related to recreational drug use is continuously increasing, and there is no statistical difference in relation to the drugs used by men and women.
Inspector Joseph Busuttil commented that it is difficult to gather statistics about women and addiction, as they fear that by reporting drug use they will criminalise themselves. “The only sector where a person can have an idea of the actual reality is through prostitution,” he said.
In the second panel, Dr Anna Maria Vella discussed how crucial it is to have something for women by women. She also mentioned that at times, women see prostitution as the only means to get money for drugs, even though they still end up without money.
Dr Alosia Camilleri, a psychiatrist explained that the amount of mental health problems between men and women is rather similar. The difference is what kind of mental illness they have.
She also mentioned that women face more barriers in facing treatment and getting out of this vicious cycle.
Dr Mariella Mangion talked about the problems babies face, whose mothers used drugs, and also the long term effects.
Mr Noel Xerri, Chief Executive of the OASI Foundation, emphasised how essential it is to note that there is still a lot of abuse and a lot of work needs to be done in order to achieve a better situation.
Finally Naxxar mayor Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adam ended the conference, saying that the Naxxar local council understands the importance of social help and the NGOs, saying that it is also willing to help other non-governmental organisations. The conference was presented by Amanda Ciappara.
On Sunday 24th June 2018, to commemorate the OASI Foundation’s 27th anniversary from its official opening in 1991, on the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse, a Thanksgiving Function was held at the OASI Centre.
In a speech on behalf of the Board of Directors, Mr. Joseph Borg stated that Fr. Emmanuel Cordina has passed the baton to Mr. Noel Xerri, who is now the Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation. Fr. Cordina will continue to be the Chairperson of the Board of Directors. Mr. Borg thanked Fr. Cordina for dedicating his life to the benefit of others. He expressed the trust the Board of Directors has in Mr. Xerri, who will be taking the Foundation forward into a world where problems relating to addiction are becoming more frequent and complex. Mr. Borg stated that talks of recreational use of drugs is muddling the minds of youths and they are feeling disoriented, leaving them more prone to addiction, as expressed by experts in the field during a National Conference held last year. Next Tuesday, OASI will be participating in another National Conference, alongside Sedqa and Caritas, to be held in Parliament, and will be asserting its positions on this National stage, as is our duty. Mr. Borg expects the leaders of the country to take note of this message and act accordingly. He also thanked OASI staff and volunteers for their dedication to the Foundation, the Ministry for the Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity and the Ministry for Gozo for their continuous help, and past and present members of the Board of Directors for their support. Mr. John Magro, another member of the Board of Directors, presented OASI Awards to Lucy Stevenson, Jofy Mainzer and Margaret McMullan for their dedication and hard work throughout the years.
Present were Hon. Dr. Justyne Caruana, Minister for Gozo and Hon. Dr. Chris Said, Opposition spokesperson for Gozo Affairs, who gave short speeches, agreeing that OASI is a Gozitan Foundation providing a national service, expressed their concern regarding the current mentality and drug availability, and showed solidarity with the Foundation’s work and position.
Afterwards a reception was held at the OASI Centre.
Leading up to this event, the OASI Foundation also worked in collaboration with the Ministry for Gozo to organize activities to raise awareness about drug use. These included information sessions and outreach to increase people's awareness of the social realities in Malta and Gozo, as well as the dissemination of informative material. Ministry staff and persons with a disability attending the Santa Marta Centre decorated the Xewkija roundabout with a message against drug abuse.
Last June, after that the Foundation’s Director General and Founder exposed publicly his opinion on the proposal of the political parties to discuss the legalisation of Cannabis for recreational and therapeutic purposes, staff, volunteers and present & past service users at OASI Foundation, also concerned about the underhanded way the subject matter regarding the Legalisation of Cannabis for Recreational Use is being publicly and politically handled declare, that:
While cannabis recreational usage is ostensibly being excused by the argument that certain people, suffering from certain conditions, could personally benefit from its use, consequently this justifies its legalisation and easy access on the open market even for recreational use. Such a rationale is defective and deviates into a perilous path to follow. We are well aware that derivatives from various natural products have always, through laboratory exploration and proper tests, been produced and made available, under control, for treatment of various medical conditions. Modern medicine is rich in such occurrences and we believe that cannabinoids derivatives could also be produced in a similar serious, medical setting and professional manner.
OASI Foundation’s concern relates to the negative health effects steps to unrestrained legalized moodaltering substances may have on our children’s future quality of life and that of our society at large. The following are our main concerns:
- Legalization of Cannabis use is a foreboding subject matter that requests first and foremost to be exposed for discussion amongst credited professionals and their clients/patients. These, through their social, psychological and physio-biological professional research, data, and experience should lead the direction of discussions and decision making on a public and political platform.
- Professionals in this field have had to deal with too many persons who, in their pre or early teens, started off smoking nicotine and consuming alcohol (both legal drugs) to end up taking a downward spiral into addiction, ruining their lives, that of their families and affecting society at large. Legalizing cannabis will intensify further this downward spiral.
- If smoking and alcohol are being severely discouraged nowadays, wouldn’t it be foolish to legalise other toxic or mood altering substances?
- We at OASI are aware of the misleading perception and mind-set that, as long as a person does not make use of heroin, there is no harm done in smoking cannabis or doing a line of cocaine every now and then. Therefore, the false justification follows, as cannabis does not kill physically, there is no harm done in its free use. Notwithstanding all this, it is common knowledge that smoking cannabis kills emotions and feelings towards oneself and others and thus risks the well-being of the user and society at large.
- Rather than legalizing drugs, the state should be more proactive in asking why our new generations are in this critical situation of choosing escapism instead of facing realities. The Education, Health and Social Ministries should therefore take up their responsibilities and truly lead by example to divert and invest their resources, human and financial, to do the required research and present academic solutions towards the understanding of the reasons behind such a thoughtless use of uncontrolled mood-altering substances simply to get an artificial good feeling in their lives.
- We feel that legalization, will be interpreted that there is no harm for a person to do marijuana – in all its forms and modes of ingestion, something which is obviously wrong. On the contrary, society, through those responsible for its good administering, has the responsibility to protect persons from myriad forms of poverty which cannabis can lead to. This should be done also, out of justice towards those who work and strive so hard to sustain our present and future generations through their vocational profession and their financial contributions towards the coffers of the state.
The above concerns are not merely based on our personal or organisational experiences but also on worldwide empirical studies as those referred to underneath.
Links of research:
- Update of Cannabis and its medical use by Bertha K. Madras
The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime: Evidence from State Panel Data, 1990-2006 by Robert G. Morris; Michael TenEyck; J. C. Barnes & Tomislav V. Kovandzic: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0092816
- EMCDDA – Harm reduction policies for cannabis by Wayne Hall & Benedikt Fischer
- UNODC World Drug Report 2015
- SPAD 2015 by Sedqa
- Age of Onset of Marijuana Use and Executive Function by Staci A. Gruber, Kelly A. Sagar, Mary Kathryn Dahlgren, Megan Racine & Scott E. Lukas : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3345171/
- Considering Cannabis: The Effects of Regular Cannabis Use on Neurocognition in Adolescents and Young Adults Krista M. Lisdahl & Natasha E. Wright & Christopher Medina-Kirchner & Kristin E. Maple & Skyler Shollenbarger: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/08/consideringcannabis.pdf
- EMCDDA : http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/attachements.cfm/att_53392_EN_emcdda-cannabis-monvol2-ch16-web.pdf
- EMCDDA: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/monographs/cannabis
- National institute on drug abuse – Early-Onset, Regular Cannabis Use Is Linked to IQ Decline by Kathryn Calkins: https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2013/08/early-onsetregular-cannabis-use-linked-to-iq-decline
The Treatment and Rehabilitation Unit of the OASI Foundation, during 2016, catered for 205 persons with an addiction problem. Of these clients, 64 benefitted from a residential program and collectively made use of 2,568 bed nights. 95% of the residents making use of the OASI services are residents from Malta, while the rest come from Gozo. The OASI Residential Addiction Treatment Programme is a very intensive one based on the 12 Steps of AA, tailored for local needs on the Minnesota Model. This treatment method comprises an intensive residential therapy period of 8 weeks to 12 weeks, according to the individual’s requirement, followed by a tapering aftercare support on outpatient basis.
Besides residential treatment, OASI offers also the same 12 Steps therapeutic programme to clients on outpatients basis, through which persons who, for various reasons may not be able to attend a residential programme, such as residents from Gozo who have a good family support, mothers with young children or pregnant women. During 2016, 141 clients benefitted from this outpatient services which included session related to Outreach, Motivation, Continued Care and Aftercare.
This information was reported during the Annual General Meeting of the OASI Foundation, held last Sunday 19th March. For OASI this was the 2nd Annual General Meeting after that it had registered a new statute for the organisation that will assist it to manage its mission better in the present and future social conditions.
Besides the treatment given to addicted clients, the programme offers also individual and family group sessions on a weekly basis to family members and other persons significant to the clients in treatment. The latter service has the objective of helping people related to the clients in treatment to improve their understanding of addiction, to release their tension and frustrations and thus expectantly prepare them to provide a better quality of support to their loved ones once they leave treatment and start their social re-integration towards continued recovery.
The first Annual General Meeting of the OASI Foundation was held on Sunday, 31st July 2016.
The Board of Directors thanked all those who have contributed to the work of the Foundation, gave an overview of what has been done so far and the charting of the new statute, and presented their vision for the way forward,
On Sunday, the OASI Foundation celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a ceremony held in Gozo. In the late 80s, Fr. Emmanuel Cordina started encountering cases of drug experimentation in Gozo, and became aware of the lack of educational and preventive services in the sector.
With the help of a group of people, Fr. Cordina started the OASI project, and on Wednesday, the 26th of June 1991, the OASI Foundation was officially set up.
OASI said, as a house needs solid foundations to hold fast against the elements, so does society. The Founders always believed that children and youths are the foundations of society, and thus OASI started its work in prevention to help society strengthen future generations.
The next step for the Foundation was to set up a futuristic programme of prevention and care tailored to Gozitan needs as well as the national social milieu. A year after foundation, a programme was chosen that could offer OASI and its clients services tackling toxic substance abuse.
OASI said that its new social project was built around three central elements: preventive education, effective intervention and intensive therapeutic rehabilitation. The programme was based on the philosophy, pedagogy and therapy of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Step Programme and the biopsychosocial Minnesota Model. These worthwhile decisions are still bearing fruit today.
Oven these 25 years of work in the community, OASI continued to grow and renew itself. On the 20th of November, 1998, a Residential Centre was opened and all services started also being offered on a residential basis. Over the years, OASI has twice had to increase the size of its Centre in Victoria, Gozo.
In 2009, a new Residential Home was opened, increasing the number of beds from 7 to 15. Over the years, OASI said that it has faced many problems, including a period between 2003 and 2004 when the residential centre had to close.
"This was a difficult time for OASI and its clients who were following the 12-Step Programme, which is only offered by OASI in Malta. In spite of these setbacks, assistance was still given to persons seeking assistance with social problems from OASI during this time."
In 2013, reform was carried out to help the Foundation strengthen its structures so as to be better prepared to face current problems as well as future ones. At this time, the Foundation was structured into 5 departments: Administration, Volunteers, Primary Prevention, Immediate Intervention, and the Treatment Unit.
This year, the Board of Directors has updated and registered a new statute, with the intention of putting the Foundation in a better position to carry out its work in the community with greater efficiency and civic responsibility.
OASI said that the new statute reflects the changes that happened in both the Foundation itself and society at large over the preceding 25 years.
This statute gives all friends of OASI, volunteers and benefactors, the opportunity to become ordinary members of the Foundation, with the right to attend Annual General Meetings and vote about internal changes and in elections to fill vacant posts on the Board of Directors.
The OASI Foundation said that its mission is to continue to spread and grow its educational, therapeutic and social work. "This can only be done thanks to the dedication and ceaseless work of all those who support the Foundation."
OASI gave special thanks to the Directors, all other volunteers, staff and benefactors, past and present, "thanks to whom OASI remains present, working for the benefit of society, to this day."
During Sunday's celebrations a memento was presented to Karista Stellini by Fr. Emmanuel Cordina, in appreciation of her voluntary services to the OASI Foundation.
To commemorate the 23rd anniversary since the opening of the OASI Foundation, Director General Fr Emmanuel Cordina celebrated a thanksgiving Mass at its centre in Victoria. During the ceremony, the Oasi Award was presented to Dorothy Meli, Maria Debono and Carmen Cordina for their help and support over the years.
Gozo Minister Anton Refalo emphasised that Oasi is a source of energy and hope for those in need and especially for youths. Present for this commemoration were members of the board of directors, staff, volunteers, benefactors, clients and their families.
The Foundation provides all its services free of charge.
Anyone wishing to support the foundation may send a donation to the director-general, Oasi Centre, 5, Triq Wied Sara, Victoria VCT2963.
Each year on the 26th of June the world celebrates the International Day against Drugs promoted annually by the United Nations. But this same date is also OASI Foundation Day in Gozo, this OASI celebrates its 22nd Anniversary.
To commemorate this event, on the 26th of June, activities were held exclusively for current and past OASI service users. Then on Sunday, the 30th of June, at the St. Michael’s Hall of the OASI premises, the Bishop of Gozo, Mgr Mario Grech assisted by the Director General of the OASI Foundation, Fr. Emmanuel Cordina and Mgr. Carm Farrugia, Assistant Director of Caritas, celebrated the Holy Eucharist as a thanksgiving service.
Mgr Mario Grech emphasised that OASI has evolved throughout these 22 years thanks to the determination and aspiration of the founder, Fr. Emmanuel Cordina and the willpower of the clients who willingly sought help in order to overcome their problems. He enphasised that while it is positive that the civil authorities continue to support OASI financially they must enhance their willful efforts to bring to accountability those persons who are constantly threathening and robbing the lives of the weak members of our society.
Present for this celebration were the Board of Directors, the Minister for Gozo, Dr Anton Refalo, members of Parliament, staff, volunteers, benefactors, clients and their families.
The OASI Award presented by the OASI Director General this year went to the Gozo Diocese, Microsoft Malta & Exigy and to Mr. Joseph V. Refalo Jr and Mr. Noel Xerri, whose made it possible for OASI to improve its ICT performance. Afterwards everyone present joined in to socialise together with food and refreshments.
22 Years of Continuous and Caring Activity Throughout its existence, OASI has always believed that Prevention is better than cure. While OASI is mostly associated with problems related to addiction, its field of work is wider than one may think. In fact it has been very couragious to create alternative edutainment activities for all generation to keep them out of the mess of substance abuse. It has helped thousands of children, youths and adults alike.
Through its wide spectrum of caring services operated from its headquarters in Gozo OASI reached out to its service users coming from Malta and Gozo, who represent a cross-section of the whole leader scale of society. OASI made its stronghold in its educational and preventive program in all schools in Gozo.
Each year it reaches out to all students from an early stage at their primary level into the post-secondary level of their education, supporting them along the way with its preventive activities. In the last 12 months, 3641 children and youths benefitted from its preventive program apart several parental skills sessions and the various interventions on local and national radio and television stations. To these one has to add the Foundation’s official magazine, OASI.com with its valuable informative and educational articles, distributed to all the households in Gozo.
The most acknowledged OASI activity is its treatment & rehabilitation program based on the 12 Steps of AA, where thousands of persons suffering from intensive addiction problems have found a multidisciplinary team of dedicated professionals ready to assist them in their recovery from their addiction be it from drugs, alcohol or any other dependency.
Last year some 289 individuals benefited from the OASI intensive residential and outpatients therapeutic services, 38% of which are Gozitans.
All services are provided free of charge. Those who want to support OASI Foundation may send their contribution to the Director General, OASI Centre, 5, Triq Wied Sara, Victoria VCT2963, Gozo.
On Sunday, 24th June 2012, the OASI Foundation organised an Open Day to celebrate the 20th Anniversary from the opening of the Administrative Centre at 5, Wied Sara Street, Victoria.
Visitors to the Centre benefited from a variety of activities organised for all the family, which included a Harley Davidson Motorbike Show, Bouncing Castle, Face painting, Guided tour of the OASI Premises, Ex-Clients’ Sharing, White Elephant Stall and a show by Greenfields. A section was also dedicated to Maltese Arts and a food and drinks stall.
The Minister for Gozo, Giovanna Debono, and the Minister for Justice, Dialogue and the Family, Chris Said, were present to support this important event for the Foundation, and unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the occasion.