In the mid-eighties, the Psychiatric Clinic of the University of Athens started off with the first pilot prevention programmes in schools and local communities based on similar programmes in other European countries. These programmes are inspired by the philosophy of a more global approach to drug use prevention that does not focus on use and use-related risks per se nor does it seek any immediate gains. It focuses mainly on the causes of the problem, aiming to promote the overall psycho-social health of young people (boosting their self-esteem, mitigating their feelings of loneliness, developing their communication skills, building up their resistance to negative influences and their capacity to make informed decisions about their way of life) through a strictly educational process based on modern methods of active learning.
This approach was the mainstay of the first systematic effort to implement prevention programmes in Greece back in 1995, when OKANA came up with a prevention centre development programme for the whole country. Prevention Centres are run by OKANA in conjunction with local government authorities in acknowledgement of the role local communities play in prevention work. They are co-financed by OKANA and the Ministry of the Interior through the local governments budgets (central self-contained resources, KAP), and local bodies. OKANA's Prevention Department is in charge of systematic scientific surveillance and evaluation of primary prevention programmes and actions in Prevention Centres.
Training of Prevention Staff
The need to train prevention staff and to produce training material to assist them in their work caused OKANA to reactivate the Training and Supervision Centre that was launched at first in 1998 in cooperation with the University Mental Health Research Institute (UMHRI) and was discontinued in 2006. The reactivation of the Training and Supervision Centre in November 2011 was mainly decided on the basis of the permanent needs of prevention and other professionals for continuous support all the more within circumstances of financial recession known to foment addictions.
The Training Programs available at the Center are meant for:
- Members of Staff of Prevention Centers
- Mental Health professionals and more generally professionals active in the domain of Health
- Primary and Secondary Education teachers
- Armed forces officers
- Members of the Judiciary
- Members of Sport Associations ea.
The scientific staff of OKANA's Prevention Department also participate in European and international training programmes in the field of prevention. As a result, they can exchange experiences, broaden their knowledge and skills, and learn of new trends and prevention strategies around the world.
Prevention Centres implement prevention programmes based on the philosophy of health education and promotion in order to raise the awareness of local communities and their bodies, and to involve them in the prevention effort.
Prevention Centre programmes are addressed to:
- School children and adolescents
- Sports clubs and teams
- Professionals coming into direct contact with the problem (teachers, coaches, policemen, health professionals, priests, Army officers etc.)
- Special population groups (ethnic Greeks returning to Greece, refugees, minority groups, prisoners etc.)
- The greater community
Depending on their target audience, Prevention Centre interventions aim to:
- Empower, support and train young people so that they opt for a positive attitude, and develop skills and behaviours going counter to addictive substance use
- Provide counselling and support to families in order to strengthen the role of parents, and to improve communication
- Raise the awareness of teachers about prevention, and strengthen their pedagogical role and their relation with their pupils
- Keep the stakeholders informed on current treatment programmes
- Inform, raise the awareness of and involve the greater community
Today there are 74 Prevention Centres in 50 out of 51 geographical deparments (Nomos).