On June 12th, the 29th ECAD Mayors Conference, titled "Times to Unite – Collective Actions in Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery," was held virtually in collaboration with Kaunas City Municipality. The conference featured discussions by experts on best practices, experiences, and tools for prevention and recovery from substance use.

The conference was officially opened by Göran Gredfors (Chair of ECAD) and the Mayor of Kaunas, Visvaldas Matijosaitis. Following the opening, Cressida de Witte introduced the project titled "Building Networks Promoting Health - Developing Substance Use Prevention Awareness Models in the Baltic Cities," which is implemented by ECAD, Kaunas, Tallinn, and Riga, and funded by the Swedish Institute. The project aims to create sustainable prevention awareness-raising models while strengthening capacities and connecting cities.

Keynote Speaker: Wadih Malouf (UNODC)
  • Emphasized the importance of prevention across all age groups, even during pregnancy.
  • Shared the importance of prevention being person-centred and gender-based.
  • While prevention requires long-term investment, it has a large return on investment of other costs, including violence and crime.
  • Discussed the UNODC's CHAMPS initiative, focusing on evidence-based prevention services and sustainable infrastructure.
  • Introduced the Declaration of Oviedo, which presents ten proposals for effective prevention in drug policies.
  • Highlighted the necessity of family-focused prevention and the importance of a multisectoral approach to support children and youth.
Speaker Highlights

Dave Higham (The Well Communities, UK):
  • Stressed the importance of including individuals with lived experiences in treatment and rehabilitation structures.
  • Highlighted the need to create a community in which one can grow and thrive
  • Shared the necessity of maintaining the culture and values of creating a community space empowering individuals to engage with the wider community in Lived Experience Recovery Organisations
Tina Miller (Florida Recovery Schools of Tampa Bay, Inc.):
  • Introduced the concept of Recovery Schools, which provide tailored support for students facing substance use and other challenges.
  • Emphasized the non-punitive, supportive environment and high success rates in recovery and attendance.
  • Shared their peer support programme in which graduated students support attending students, allowing both to further flourish.

Stig Erik Sorheim (EURAD):
  • Discussed global and European trends in cannabis policy.
  • Provided examples of countries that had [partly] legalised cannabis, followed by the increase of commercialisation.
  • Highlighted the complexities and consequences of cannabis legalization and the need for proactive evidence-based approaches to counteract the development.

Panel Discussion

Martina Rojnic Kuzman (City of Zagreb):
Shared Zagreb's initiatives to enhance mental health and prevent substance use among youth, including a month-long awareness campaign.

Prof. Mindaugas Stelemekas (Kaunas City Municipality):
  • Highlighted declining alcohol and smoking rates but rising e-cigarette use among Lithuanian youth.
  • Emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach to prevention, including suicide prevention linked to substance use.
Johannes-Emmanuel Allas(City of Tallinn):
  • Discussed the implementation of the Planet Youth Programme to reduce drug and e-cigarette use.
  • Focused on improving children's sleep habits as part of the action plan based on survey results.

The conference underscored the importance of collaborative, evidence-based approaches in prevention, treatment, and recovery, and the need for continuous engagement and innovation in addressing substance use challenges.

Read the Full Summary Here