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On the 30th June, the OASI Foundation organised the first edition of the Aqua FunDay. The idea behind this event is to promote a healthy lifestyle outdoors. Furthermore, sport is a scientifically proven tool to prevent substance abuse.

During the fun-filled morning, various activities were held such as yoga, aqua aerobics, watersports activities, waterpolo tournament, open water swimming competition, sailing and also fun games.

Special thanks go to the Ministry for Gozo for sponsoring the event. Also, thanks to Otters and Kinetika and all the volunteers who helped so that the Aqua FunDay was a success.

 

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The 28th anniversary of the OASI Foundation was commemorated last Sunday during a special event which included a mass celebrated by Fr. Joseph Bajada. During the ceremony , the OASI Award was presented to Mr Ferdinand Fenech, Mrs. Marisa Warwick and Mrs. Marisa Scicluna as recognition for their dedication and hard work during the years.

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.

 

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Today, 18th June, the OASI Foundation together with the Naxxar Local Council organized a National Conference under the Distinct Patronage of H.E. Dr. George Vella, President of Malta, with the title Drugs...and Mental Health? Reality, Health and Prevention.  The conference was held at Villa Arrigo and was moderated by Mr. Clifford Galea.

Hon. Dr. Michael Falzon, Minister for the Family and Social Solidarity, emphasized how important it is that all service providers in the social field work together to achieve their common goals.  He stated that the involvement of the Presidency is proof of the importance of the subject in question and the Government's commitment in tackling these issues. 

Ms. Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adami, Mayor of Naxxar, said the local council looks forward to this annual conference and commits to their continuous support of OASI and its message.

Mr. Manuel Gellel, on behalf of the National Focal Point on Drugs and Drug Addiction, Ms. Sharon Arpa, representing Sedqa, Dr. Anton Grech, Psychiatrist and Chairperson of Mental Health Services, and Prof. Richard Muscat, Director of the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Biobanking, discussed present statistics, the connection between drug use disorders and mental health disorders, and gave their recommendations on how the current situation can be improved. 

Mr. Noel Xerri, Chief Executive of OASI, emphasised that everyone has a duty to contribute so that together we can tackle the problem of drug use. He stated that whoever believes that drug use causes harm to society is a contributor and collaborator. He also mentioned that the law needs to give clear direction on these matters, and needs to be based on scientific evidence.

H.E. Dr. George Vella, President of Malta closed the conference by saying that we cannot forget that when we are mentioning statistics, we are talking about actual people, many of whom are doing their best to deal with their problems. He also mentioned that we need to reduce the stigma related to mental health and drug use disorders and certain labelling should be eliminated. Finally, he closed his speech by addressing the issue of cannabis stating that we need to learn from experts and other countries and that as a medical doctor and a father he doesn’t believe that recreational cannabis should be legalised and its use should be limited only to medical one.

Read H.E. the President's full address here.

The audience was an active participant in the National Conference, and included representatives from diverse fields, including government agencies, non-governmental organizations, educators, persons working with youths and students. 

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The Maltese Association of Psychiatry and OASI Foundation, together with other professionals have been studying the drugs scene as part of our daily work. We have witnessed changes, not only in the variety of new drugs available on the market but also in quantity and quality of drugs, namely more potent forms of psychoactive substances being available on the market. Of greater concern is the change in pattern of drug use and the fact that this is often tagged as recreational despite obvious repercussions on users’ well-being.  These findings are compared against international data and studies.

We are concerned with the increased availability of drugs. Treatment demand indicators proof an increase in recreational drugs and drug use, mostly cocaine and cannabis. We have also noticed a decrease in new onset heroin use. Drug use, nowadays, is not tied to any social strata or cohort, but treatment demands arrive from persons of all social levels and standards, most with no family history of substance use disorders or other mental health problems.

We have registered a change in the manner by which users approach drugs, especially those kinds that are looked upon as recreational ones. Most users are not conscious nor cautious of the substances they make use of. Most of the harm caused by drugs is gradual and covered by its euphoric and relaxing effect. It is only visible in time.

Drug use has been with us for ages, and it will remain with us. Consenting and approving it is different from acknowledging its existence and devise strategies to heal it.

We remain wholly committed to providing care and treatment for persons with substance use disorders and their families. We believe that punishing illegal use is often counterproductive, although we have encountered cases where law enforcement was a motivator towards a more satisfying and fulfilling life away of all substance abuse. We do not want to stigmatise users or discriminate against them – we work with these persons day in day out and we base our practices on ethical standards.

We have also stated in the past that we do agree with the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, under scientifically proven practices and strict protocols.

In view of the proposal to legalise cannabis for recreational purposes, we feel the responsibility to make our position clear, as we did several times in the past, more so when such a proposal is labelled as a harm-reduction strategy. If the legalisation of cannabis will see new individuals starting cannabis use then definitely this cannot be labelled as a harm reduction strategy.

We do not agree with the legalization of cannabis for the following reasons:

  • We do feel that legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes is giving out a very unhealthy and contradicting message, especially when combined with harm reduction purposes. We believe that the state has the responsibility to give clear messages to the general public and to our young and future generations. Studies show that cannabis use, especially long term but also dependent on the age of onset, has counterproductive effects on the memory, concentration and sensorimotor activities. Often time users are not willing to look into effects of the drug that go beyond the euphoria experienced during the period of intoxication.
  • We need stronger policies which guide enforcement based on training and educating not only frontliners in the enforcement and health care sectors (as these are the ones who face the consequences on drug recreational use), but also the general public. We are particularly in need of training of educators working with children and adolescents, these people are uniquely placed to identify youngsters with at risk behaviours and channel them to appropriate services.
  • Parents need more professional support easily available in order to be more equipped to deal with the challenges of children’s upbringing as well as education about detecting early signs of behaviours associated with drug use. Families are invariably effected by a relatives’ drug use pattern and are oftentimes the ones asking for help before the user himself / herself.
  • The same applies to the effects on the industry and work place. Employers need support and guidance on how to deal with cases of intoxication, not only with reference to machinery use, but also to how drug use effects work relations and productivity.
  • Physical activity is a must for a better mental wellbeing. Open spaces need to be more available at all times. We are surrounded by the sea which could offer a myriad of options for relaxation and sports activity (not only during the warm season), where the promotion of wellbeing could be put in practice.
  • Drug users and family members need a means of knowing what kind of drug samples they are taking through anonymity protocols. Offering them testing facilities helps them and country know what kind of drugs are available.
  • We have been advocating for a Poison Unit in our Emergency Departments to monitor intoxication cases and levels in our hospital admissions. The country needs more data captured from more data sources such as EDs in hospitals. These sources could help the law and policy makers.
  • Drug driving policies and training need to be in place and enforced.
  • We do not believe the legalization recreational purposes will eliminate cannabis illegal supply.
  • Stronger preventive strategies need also be studied and acted upon.  The Icelandic Preventive Model (to mention one model), took 20 years to produce results and included, among other strategies, removing alcohol availability from homes and from the visibility of younger generations.

Prevention should also include training for care professionals (doctors, nurses, para-medics, social workers, youth workers, teachers and learn support assistants, police and other law enforcement, etc) in how to deal with emergency cases as well as apply policies and strategies in everyday life.

 

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Mrs Michelle Muscat and members of the Marigold Team inaugurated the refurbishment work carried out at the OASI Residential Treatment and Rehabilitation. During this discussion OASI emphasised about the focus made to the attitude the Maltese society has towards recreational drugs. Mrs Muscat was presented with findings and recommendations arising from the two conferences organised by OASI on the subject. OASI Foundation expressed their gratitude for the financial investment the Marigold Foundation has done at the OASI Centre.

 

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OASI Foundation lecture for professionals on long-term recovery

OASI Foundation organised a lecture at its premises by Jonathan Fog on' Self Groups- A long term recovery tool' which was open to all professionals in the field.

Jonathan Fong is the Chief Operating Officer and Finance Officer for an outpatient clinic in California which specialises in addiction and mental health treatment and primary medicine. His speciality is treating addiction using Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid addiction. During this lecture, Jonathan talked about being a recovering person himself with over 30 years of recovery, participates in the 12-step self help groups and mentors a number of people.

The presentation presented is in line with the Foundation's philosophy and services, and it served as a training opportunity for workers in field, with over 60 attending for the event. This presentation is also part of a series of presentations and awareness sessions for workers in the social field to enhance their knowledge and awareness.

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The Bern Hersey’s Fitness Club organised a special class at the Sacred Heart Seminary Fitness Centre in aid of the OASI Foundation. More than 80 people attended the one-hour session, during which they were given fitness intelligence guidelines by Leo. The aim of the activity is in line with the OASI Foundation’s preventive approach: sport and physical activity contribute to feeling good and prevent substance use and abuse.

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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.

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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.


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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.