Ja's drug programme doing 'quite well', says Tucker

BY ANIKA RICHARDS Observer staff reporter richardsa@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 16, 2014

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JAMAICA'S drug programme is doing "quite well", given the resources at the country's disposal, according to executive director of the National Council on Drug Abuse Michael Tucker.

In fact, in the Caribbean, Jamaica is leading the way, Tucker told the Jamaica Observer last week.

"...We are the largest and most advanced drug council in the region," explained Tucker. "So in terms of [the] Caribbean region, certainly, Jamaica leads the way.

"We have the same challenges and same issues that many of the developed countries have, and certainly we use science and technology as effectively as they do.

"Our success rate, say, for instance in the drug courts, in what we are seeing in terms of subsequent prevention and treatment, is about the same as what you call developed countries. It all depends on the resources you really have to work with."

Drug courts allow for people charged with crimes associated with substance abuse to be given an option for treatment and rehabilitation, instead of incarceration.

Tucker was part of a team of representatives that visited the Jamaica Observer's Beechwood Avenue offices in Kingston to highlight the benefits of some of the Organisation of American States (OAS)-funded programmes in Jamaica. He said the OAS plays a hemispheric role in terms of prevention, treatment and drug control.

"The agency actually co-ordinates the efforts of 34 countries in the hemisphere, both in North and South America and the Caribbean, looking on issues surrounding both prevention and treatment of substance abusers along with the policy concerning substance misuse, and also looking at institutional strengthening of those agencies that are involved in drug control generally, and prevention and treatment in particular," Tucker explained.

The OAS's hemispheric role in the region is facilitated by the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM) which replaced the certification process the United States used to impose sanctions on countries when it is said that these countries were not doing enough to control the sale of drugs or the transshipment of drugs.

"So the MEM is a more balanced approach," Tucker reasoned.

He said that, after a thorough process, a report is published looking at drug control in all 34 countries.

Each country fills out a questionnaire based on the experts that exist in the particular country in the area of institutional strengthening and prevention, treatment, and drug control. "It goes through the OAS system to a group that is called the MEM group of experts and there is a one-year process that that group goes through in evaluating each country's drug programme.

"There is a lot of to-and-fro between the group of experts, through the OAS network, to the countries, and feeding back to the group of experts, and eventually a hemispheric report on drug control is published," Tucker said.

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