Blue Cross Brazil is currently developing a network of aftercare service providers in the field of alcohol and illicit drug dependence care across Southern Brazil. The aim of the network is to significantly reduce relapse rates among clients who have successfully completed their first therapy cycle. This important Blue Cross Brazil initiative is a response to the lack of integrated aftercare services in Southern Brazil – a gap which seriously jeopardises the success of dependence treatment. The Blue Cross Brazil self-help group (SHG) development initiative is therefore making a significant contribution to dealing with this critical service provision problem.
The Context in which Blue Cross Brazil Works: Some Facts and Figures
- An estimated 9% of the population in Southern Brazil suffer from dependence on alcohol, making alcohol misuse a significant public health issue (Brazilian Information Centre on Psychotropic Drugs, 2005).
- Public institutions are not yet able to adequately address the alcohol and illicit drug misuse problem as a public health issue. In particular, in the area of aftercare, there are almost no public services available.
- There is growing awareness, though from a low base, of the importance of integrated aftercare services among nongovernmental aftercare service providers (i.e. services that include the dependent’s family members within the care and therapeutic processes).
Strengthening Self-help through Targeted Training Initiatives
In 2009, Blue Cross Brazil initiated a pioneering project aimed at establishing an extensive network of aftercare service providers in the states of Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul. The initial development of the project was as follows:
- The project trained practitioners from nongovernmental health development organisations and faith based service providers in aftercare, to enable them to establish and lead SHGs in a professional manner.
- Once the training was completed, participants helped establish new SHGs in their regions.
- Project coordinators were trained to monitor the established groups. This enables the Blue Cross to guarantee the quality, adequacy, and sustainability of the groups’ work.
- SHG regional group leaders meetings were organised to enable collaboration between the groups throughout Southern Brazil.
Through its training programme, Blue Cross Brazil succeeded in establishing 11 SHGs self-help groups during the initiation phase of the project in 2009. By December 2010, this number has increased to 37! The aim is to continue to grow and expand the network of self-help groups.
One beneficiary of the programme – referring to her experience with one of Blue Cross’s Brazil SHGs – told us in November 2010:
“I couldn’t find the knowledge, wisdom or strength to face the severe drug dependence of my son, at the university, nor in law books or even among my friends. I found the support and courage to tackle this problem only by joining the self-help group of Blue Cross Brazil. I can firmly say that the self-help group in Vacaria [Rio Grande do Sul] is the most important thing that ever happened in my life.”
Donations to contribute towards the further development and expansion of this important aftercare initiative are very welcome!