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Hanoi field lab for stimulant harm reduction

Vietnam

October 2019 marked the start of a cutting edge new initiative. With the support of Open Society Foundation, Mainline and SCDI in Vietnam are building expertise to support people who use stimulant drugs. The core motivation to do so is the sharp rise in the use of crystal meth in the South Asian region and the lack of a coordinated harm reduction response.

Our shared ambition is to create a ‘field lab’: a learning hub where organisations from the region can experience in practice which interventions work for people who use ice.

Building blocks

In the past two years, Mainline and SCDI have already seriously invested in setting a basis for a regional learning hub. Mainline trained CBOs in Ho Chi Minh City in 2018 and in Hanoi in 2019 to design a harm reduction response focused on meth users.

The work is inspired by Mainline’s work in Indonesia and seeks to include the best practices that we described in our 2018 Speed Limits research. Part of this exercise is also to ‘learn-by-doing’: the field of stimulant harm reduction is still a largely unexplored territory and particularly difficult in a context where there is no mental health system in place.




Concentrated training

To reach new depths in the stimulant harm reduction work, Open Society supports a concentrated training effort in Vietnam. Mainliner’s Nick and Simon work very closely with SCDI and local community-based organisations during the months of October and November 2019. During this time, an intense training course focuses on various interventions that can support meth users. They range from motivational interviewing to working on targeted IEC materials and from deciding on which commodities to provide to finding ways of attracting new people to services.

One of the interventions, described in the Speed Limit study, is the start of a ‘contemplation group’. Mainline’s South African partner Shaun Shelly will join the Mainline trainers for a week to set up such a group. 

Community mental health response

Central to the training is mental health. People who use stimulants may encounter mental health problems, such as anxiety and panic attacks, depression, hallucinations as well as paranoia and psychosis. As there are very few psychologists and psychiatrists in Vietnam, the ambition is to enable field workers to provide an adequate first response. A set of very easy to implement interventions can help people with acute mental health problems.


Fieldworkers learn to distinguish between acute and more chronic mental health problems. For those service users who suffer from serious, chronic mental health symptoms, we are working on a referral system with the few psychiatrists and doctors in Hanoi who are working with meth users. We aim to lower the threshold for people to seek support as we slowly diminish the stigma associated with mental health issues.

Train-the-trainer

Train-the-trainer candidates Adam and Hien play a special role during the concentrated training. They assist in almost every training and help with role playing and translations. Their role is key, as we aim to start inviting groups from other cities and even other countries over to see the services first-hand in the first quarter of 2020. They would ideally have access to a unique training programme to ensure visitors can apply the Vietnamese experience in their hometown.

Check out the aftermovie of the program in Vietnam:

 

Evaluation

This project was evaluated at the end of 2020 by the Centre for Training and Research on Substance Use and HIV of the Hanoi Medical University. Please read more about this and find the evaluation here. 


More information

Would you like to learn more about the stimulant field lab in Vietnam? Or are you interested in the trainings that underly this work? 

Please reach out to our trainer Simon Williams at s.williams@mainline.nl.  


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