VOICES: Dr. Oriol Esculies

<h5><strong>International Commissioner, Association ‘Proyecto Hombre’</strong></h5>
International Commissioner, Association ‘Proyecto Hombre’

Could you briefly introduce Association ‘Proyecto Hombre’?

Association ‘Proyecto Hombre’ is the largest ‘grass-roots’ non-governmental organization for drug prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and social integration in Spain. With its foundation in 1989, we have more than 30 years of experience in supporting people and families of people with substance use disorders and prevention in the community. We currently have 27 centers and more than 200 facilities, all based on a bio-psycho-social approach. Every year ‘Proyecto Hombre’ assists nearly 18,000 people with substance use disorders and their families and over a 111,000 people through prevention programs in the community.

Could you share approaches or initiatives ‘Proyecto Hombre’ has taken for drug use prevention in Spain?

When Association ‘Proyecto Hombre’ was first founded, we started with a focus on treatment and rehabilitation. But we realized that prevention is a must because if we worked on prevention, we could avoid more significant problems in the future. So we started working with schools and educational centers and developed a more systematic approach by following the quality standards for prevention available at that time. We now have several preventive initiatives in various settings: schools, the family, the community, and the workplace.

The most widely implemented prevention initiative is done in schools, a life-skills program called ‘Juego de Llaves’ (Keyset). It targets students from 9 to 16 years old. We also actively involve their parents and teachers in a hybrid face-to-face and online modality and implement it as a continuum of education.

We have developed two main selective prevention programs which respectively target adolescents and their parents. ’Rompecabezas’(Puzzle Game) is a life-skills program aimed at adolescents or pre-adolescents in high-risk and vulnerable situations. The parental-skills program ‘A Tiempo’ (On Time) targets parents with high-risk pre-adolescents and/or adolescents who have already been involved in drug contexts.

Finally, ‘Proyecto Joven’ (Youth Project) marks our indicated prevention interventions, with over three decades of experience in assisting thousands of adolescents with drug abuse. These are actually facilities for youths with drug use disorders, where youth are empowered with resiliency skills and social skills to support them in avoiding drug use. The parents also actively participate, because they have to learn how to listen to their children and interact with each other.

More recently, we have also decided to expand our scope by offering prevention interventions at workplaces for adults. This is great because even though the target population may not be considered ‘youths’, one can still continue educating and preventing drug use. Lastly, every year media awareness campaigns are launched, where prevention usually becomes the main component.

Who are the major target audiences for the projects?

We focus on vulnerable populations, and these may include people who have psychological disorders, have already been in contact with drugs, as well as ethnic minorities, women, and pregnant teenagers. We also prioritize implementing universal prevention strategies at public schools rather than at private schools so that those with less economic income or living in poor neighborhoods could benefit more. An overall 1,225,000 people, among them minors, youth, families, and teachers, have actively participated in prevention programs of Association ‘Proyecto Hombre’.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, what are some changes you have seen or experienced when delivering interventions and/or activities?

Prevention practitioners were not allowed to access schools; hence prevention interventions shifted to a remote digital format in order to maintain the sessions’ frequency. Fortunately, many of our partners were accustomed to new technology, so we could move to virtual platforms. We carried out the same activities through an online format, and it worked out quite well.

But we are more concerned about the aftermath of the pandemic. There may be worse consequences in the future, such as unemployment, an increase in stress, psychiatric instability, and other mental health issues. The situation for vulnerable people could get worse.

How do you envision ‘Listen First’ playing a role in your /programs in the future?

‘Listen First’ fits perfectly into our prevention approach and interventions. It focuses on the importance of developing life skills, the involvement of parents, and the subtle emphasis that the earlier one starts with prevention, the better it is. We also liked the videos’ format and the availability in Spanish.

In the near future, the Prevention Commission of the Association ‘Proyecto Hombre’, composed of prevention experts, will study further advantages and use of the Listen First Campaign. Hopefully, the videos will be used in our prevention programs as complementary tools in our activities for participants and might be included as basic materials for the practitioners in the Proyecto Hombre Training Center. Additionally, the ‘Listen First’ materials will be disseminated regularly through our newsletter, social media, the quarterly Proyecto Hombre Journal, and on the website.

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