Greece’s economic crisis has taken a toll on state-subsidized programs for thousands of people addicted to drugs, according to a report by the country’s largest rehabilitation network.
According to the Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals, known by its acronym KETHEA, drastic cuts in state spending and sharp staffing cutbacks over the past two years have led “to problems and difficulties” in the provision of crucial services that Greek drug addicts had benefited from in recent years.
The cutbacks imposed by the country’s international creditors last year as part of Greece’s fiscal adjustment program have left KETHEA “close to being unable to function,” according to the center’s president, Gerasimos Notaras who accused authorities of exercising “destructive policies ridden with contradictions” when unveiling the report on Monday.
A key obstacle has been dwindling state subsidies, which, according to Notaras, were cut by 21 percent between 2009 and 2011, with additional cutbacks expected this year as further austerity looms. In 2009, a total of 24 million euros was released to KETHEA. In 2011, the state earmarked 23 million euros but only disbursed 18.8 million. And this year, 18.5 million euros has been earmarked but it is unclear how much of this will be paid out.
Staffing cuts have also jeopardized the operation of KETHEA, which was forced to release 31 employees last year and faces additional cutbacks.
KETHEA, which released its report ahead of Tuesday’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, also underlined the impact of deepening poverty on the habits of drug addicts who are reportedly increasingly sharing syringes and using lower-grade, more risky narcotics.
These practices are believed to have contributed to a spike in cases of infection with HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS, as well as the spread of Hepatitis C. A growing number of drug users are living on the street, posing a risk to their own health and that of others, despite efforts by mobile units operated by Doctors of the World to help them, KETHEA said.