Crisis takes toll on OKANA detox programs

A lack of funds is threatening to put a halt to the treatment that some 2,000 drug addicts receive at OKANA rehabilitation centers in the broader Athens region, Kathimerini understands, as the state-run agency has run up 27 million euros in debts.

OKANA’s budget last year was 18 million euros and it is expected to reach the same level in 2013. However the money, officials say, is not enough to cover staff wages, despite three pay cuts in 2012.

“[The budget] is not enough to pay back the debts and [ensure] the smooth functioning of the 53 [methadone] units,” OKANA director Meni Malliori told Kathimerini, expressing concern about the agency’s ability to provide treatment for the 8,100 patients registered with the various programs.

According to Malliori, OKANA – which already owes 27 million euros for medicines, rent and public utility bills – needs some 30 million euros in funds for 2013 to continue its treatment programs, although this would not be able to accommodate about 2,000 drug addicts currently on the waiting list.

“It is estimated that for every 150-200 users who enter the substitution program, we need an extra 400,000 euros in annual funds,” Malliori said.

In a related development, the government on Friday tabled a bill to treat drug addiction as a public health issue and not a crime, while introducing tougher penalties for dealers.

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