|Responding to Drug and Alcohol Problems in the Community (WHO, 1991, 109 p.)|
|6. Strengthening links between the health sector and law enforcement personnel|
Information is essential for effective preventive work, but quite a lot can be achieved, particularly at the local level, with minimal effort.
Some of the essential information may be already known to the PHC workers. Some of it will be known to law enforcement agencies and to key persons within them. There is, therefore, a clear advantage in cooperation right from the early stages of planning community action. The assessment of a community is dealt with in Chapter 2, but the following is a brief checklist of information that could be useful:
· Characteristics of the population: numbers, composition, economic status, employment, literacy, etc. Much of this information is known by PHC workers and the police.
· Assets and barriers: the proximity of harbours, airports, tourist resorts, counselling/treatment/rehabilitation facilities, educational institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), etc. The law enforcement agencies will be able to indicate where the main drug problems are to be found, which drugs tend to be abused, and how health care workers could gain access to this network. It is also helpful to the law enforcement agencies to have a description of health and social care services and organizations.
· Drug and alcohol consumption patterns, high-risk groups, and ensuing harm: pooling information from various groups, including law enforcement agencies, could provide a very useful assessment of the drug- and alcohol-related problems within the community. This will also lead to ideas for improving the validity of the data.
· Referral systems: a chart displaying the current referral systems might be a very useful method of spotting gaps and developing new systems (e.g., referral from law enforcement agencies to the health and social care systems).
· Skills audit: it is useful to draw up a list of all the people who are willing to help, together with their specific skills. A particular police officer might be very good at collecting information and cross-checking for accuracy. A magistrate might volunteer to write documents. Some people may have been trained in counselling skills.
Getting together to share and collect information is an excellent way of starting a dialogue that can lead to creative ways of developing links between the health sector and law enforcement personnel.