Punjab Government Launches Peer Support Network


New DelhiIn line with the firm commitment of the Government of Punjab under the leadership of Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to eradicate the drug scourge in the state, the Government of Punjab in partnership with the Special Task Force has launched the Peer Support Network for inmates with Substance Use Disorder/addicts in 19 prisons in Punjab as of this month.

Revealing more details, Cabinet Minister Hargot Singh Pines said today that these 19 prisons serve more than 95% of addicted prisoners and the peer support network will be expanded to include the rest of the six prisons in the near future. He said peer support is one of the three main pillars of the outpatient opioid-assisted therapy (OOAT) model, that is, medication, peer support and counseling. It’s vital in helping drug abuse victims get off drugs and undergo successful execution treatment, Baines said.

The minister added that this is an important part of the recovery process in accordance with evidence-based best practices at the national and international levels. He said the peer support network will be created jointly with Narcotics Anonymous (NA) – an international non-profit association/fellowship to help men and women tackle substance abuse. Bynes said the fellowship does not promote itself, but rather attracts new members through media and outreach.

The minister said Narcotics Anonymous uses a 12-step model that was developed for people with various disorders from the substances used. He further said that NA suggests that drug addiction can be prevented and recovery possible through NA’s 12-step program. Baines said she has 70,000 active volunteers in the field spread across 144 countries and in India she has an extensive network and in Punjab herself she holds regular meetings.

The minister said that peer support meetings in prisons were initiated by different teams of Narcotics Anonymous and were attended by about 1,540 inmates in 19 prisons. He said each NA team is made up of 4-5 volunteers, who will hold meetings in 19 selected prisons for a few days each week. He said that the frequency of meetings would be increased once more attendees wished to join the peer support network.

Baynes said these NA volunteers organize meetings in prisons without charging any fees. Their sole purpose is to provide support to those with substance use disorders/addicts.

Ultimately, the minister said, the goal is to train inmates how to run meetings themselves according to NA’s system. He said that the written materials/literature printed in the prison press will be distributed to the prison inmates who need this support, adding that nationwide it aims to gradually establish a peer support network in all the death centers/rehabilitation centers and OOAT clinics in case. The Minister expressed his gratitude to the Punjab wing of Narcotic Anonymous for coming and organizing these prison meetings on such short notice in cooperation with the Special Task Force and the Prisons Department.

The minister said that effective implementation of peer support is part of the OOAT system and that its implementation has been on hold since 2017. Notwithstanding, he said, a significant achievement has been made in the current step in establishing the peer support network. While Bains appreciated the work done by officers and staff of the prison administration and the Special Task Force, he appreciated Addl’s contribution. Secretary General (Prisons) KAP Sinha, IAS, HS Sidhu IPS SDG Prison in taking the lead to establish peer support network in prisons.

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