Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
Mr. President of OKANA,
We bring to your attention this letter with the opportunity of the closure of the pilot Drug Consumption Room, ODYSSEAS. As users but mostly as representatives of this community that has no other way of expression, we are extremely frustrated by the fact that ODYSSEAS, one of the most indispensable and crucial units of OKANA, has been shut down with quick procedures, turning its back to all users and dooming them to constant insecurity and severe danger. Its even more important, especially during this period, that Athens experiences an outburst in terms of infections and a rise in homeless drug users that inject in very harmful and dangerous ways.
We also want to protest against the fact that we haven’t received any previous information concerning the background of this decision. Our only sources were some press releases, reporting that ODYSSEAS was shut down by an unexcused and sudden order of the Public Prosecutor. We were shocked and utterly upset. Therefore we would like to know all the details behind, which was the accusation that led you take this decision and shut down the unit and also if you did everything within your powers to resist on these accusations, to fight in order to keep the unit open and most of all, to get the DCR fully legalized, a pending issue since the beginning of its function. Additionally, having access to some non-official information about what has happened but also knowing the non-stop war that OKANA fronts, coming from conservative and antiquated perceptions concerning treatment some policy makers embrace, we would like to know what was the answer that the Ministry of Health has given to you in possible calls of yours about ODYSSEAS. The greek DCR which was very well received by the world civil society as it was a radical movement regarding the greek background, made us proud because despite the economic crisis, public opinion’s taboos and serious lacks in harm reduction interventions, it was an exception that gave hope to other countries too. It seemed that the way was opening little by little for more DCRs in order to save more lives, also leading more people to join substitution services.
Our feeling is that nothing was done from what it should have been done. OSYSSEAS kept functioning for months without legal cover,however, the ex President of OKANA, Mrs Meni Malliori, feeling the urgent need for safer use and having ensured the structural funds by the EU, backed for this unit -even under these difficult circumstances- as it was now or never. What do you really think about programs that run under community and institutional funds coming form the EU that they start but remain uncompleted? After her removal we feel that no effort has been made by the legal department of OKANA to ask the Ministry of any legal amendment or any other legal procedure that could guarantee the function of the unit. If it has been and we are not aware of, we ask you to inform us about it.
Finally, while you have committed that we would have a collaboration, no meeting has ever occurred between us even though we have requested for it. For the first time during all those years, we haven’t even received a reply to our calls.
The war against OKANA and the resistances produced by the progressive actions that introduces in the society are caused by the way the organism itself uses or doesn’t uses all its means in order to inform about the necessity of such interventions, the understanding of its role and the outcomes of such interventions. Finally it seems that this lack of strategy doesn’t only affect the image of the Organization but its costs go far beyond financial limits.
We wait for some answers concerning all our questions that are connected to real lives, who’s future is based from such decisions taken by people who finally need to wonder if they really value drug users as equal human beings, if they really care about our lives and what is the future they plan for our population.
With full indignation
Greek Drug & Substitute Users Union
Co-signed by: PRAKSIS Hellenic Association of People living with HIV POSITIVE VOICE
Hellenic Association of Liver
Patients PROMETHEUS DIOGENIS Center of Life