Mobile Units for the Care of Homeless Drug Users

The mobile units aim to interlink and enhance services providing support to high-risk drug users and protecting public health during the ongoing economic and social crisis.

Drug users who find themselves on the street in Athens and Thessaloniki.  

Year round basis.

The financial crisis has aggravated drug users‘ problems and has created new needs which have to be addressed without delay: the spread of HIV/AIDS, the emergence of new substances, poverty, homelessness and social exclusion. Every drug user has the right to information access and free care. Offering support and empowerment to drug users based on their own needs minimises the negative consequences of their drug abuse both for themselves and for society. KETHEA has launched two new Mobile Units which provide support to drug users who find themselves on the street in Athens and Thessaloniki. The newly established Mobile Units are well equipped to offer one-on-one counselling as well as medical interventions. The multidisciplinary team includes doctors/GPs, nurses, psychologists and social workers as well as special therapists. The Units park in the places where drug users congregate to acquire substances at different times of the day and night. There, they approach those drug users who, being on the streets, are cut off from any services or sources of assistance. They provide primary care and help covering the drug users’ immediate needs. The Unit staff also visit more inaccessible sites on foot or by bicycle.

The core services offered by the Units include:

  • Medical care, including medical tests and regular medical observations, treating injuries, administering vaccinations, prescribing pharmaceuticals, making referrals for tertiary care, dealing with emergencies.
  • Preventative health interventions encouraging safer drug use with a view to preventing overdoses and infections, as well as reducing the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Exchange of syringes and injectable material.
  • Distribution of condoms.
  • Psychological support.
  • Networking and referrals to other therapeutic and health services.

The Programmes provide drug users with a drug-free environment far from the dangers and stresses of the street. The Centres provide: food, clothing, personal hygiene facilities, psychological support, medical and dental care, legal advice and counselling, information and advice about available social services, recreational and creative activities.

The Mobile Units are linked to KETHEA’s Low Threshold Programmes in Athens and Thessaloniki and develop collaboration and referral networks with other organizations and NGOs which are active in the field of health and social care. The Mobile Units is a Stavros Niarchos Foundation funded project.

Overall, 35 employees in Athens and Thessaloniki work for KETHEA Mobile Units.

Athens & Thessaloniki.    

Available data concerning the operation of the services, as well as customer satisfaction  - based on the  recent evaluation research which was done - prove that the network fulfilled basic needs of drug users and contributed to public health.

During 2014-2015, Mobile Units supported 2,564 people, offering multiple services: primary health care and referral for further testing, individual counseling, food, clothing and personal hygiene, exchange of syringes and giving away safe use- kits. During 2014-2015, 105 833 clean syringes were exchanged with 97.962 used ones, 5.444 medical services were offered, 66,885 food portions were distributed and 1,108 visits (street work) were performed in drug spots.

All the above, are positively evaluated by those served, based on two dimensions: response time and quality of service. The evaluation also shows high satisfaction of those served, concerning the cleanliness of the premises of Special Center for Direct Access for drug users, as well as the sense of security and familiarity felt. Refferring to Mobile Units’ staff, customers attribute friendliness, availability, understanding of their needs and provision of useful information.

Public awareness regarding KETHEA EXELIXIS and its work, media promotion in order to increase fundraising efforts, network development and partnerships on a national level.