International Society of Substance Use Prevention and Treatment Professionals Global Workshop

James A. Walsh
Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Cancun, Mexico
December 4, 2017

As prepared

Buenos Dias!

It is an honor to be here with so many individuals from around the world who have dedicated their professional lives to preventing and treating those with substance use disorders.

I would also like to thank our hosts for their work in setting up this week’s activities:

  • ISSUP; Executive Director Joanna Travis-Roberts
  • the Mayor of Cancun, Remberto Estrada Barba
  • Alejandra Aguirre Crespo, Secretary of Health and General Director of the State Health Services in Quintana Roo
  • CIJ Director Carmen Fernández Cáceres
  • Dr. Nora Frias Melgoza, General Director of Services and Treatment, National Commission Against Addictions (CONADIC)
  • and international partners from:
    • the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,
    • the World Health Organization,
    • the African Union,
    • Organization of American States, CICAD,
    • and the Colombo Plan

And certainly not least, I want to express my gratitude to the Government of Mexico for their hospitality and for the support you have provided in making this event possible this week. I know many are looking forward to the special cultural program you have organized for us on Wednesday evening during the Dinner Reception.

In addition, thank you to U.S. Embassy Mexico City and my own staff in Washington for the excellent support you have provided.

Coming from the United States, where we are suffering through a catastrophic drug-use epidemic, the issues covered here at ISSUP could not be any more relevant. Our president has officially declared the opioids crisis to be a public health emergency, calling on all Americans “to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction” and to “be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic.”

Our domestic crisis makes our work here, on the international stage, that much more personal and crucial.

Reducing drug demand is an essential pillar of a comprehensive approach to combatting the crisis. I am pleased the U.S. Department of State has been able to partner with so many people sitting on this stage and in the audience to create specialized training programs for preventing and treating those with substance use disorders.

The Universal Prevention Curriculum provides training to prevention coordinators and professionals implementing programs in communities. The curriculum is based on the International Prevention Standards and includes strategies for families, school teachers and administrators, workplace counselors, and in broader communities. This week the Prevention Experts Working Group will review the latest curriculum and approve it for further dissemination to interested countries.

Similarly, the United States supports the Universal Treatment Curriculum for substance use treatment professionals. The Universal Treatment Curriculum provides comprehensive educational materials for substance use treatment professionals, covering a broad spectrum of topics from physiology and pharmacology, to counseling skills and ethics. This past year, over 60 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are implementing the skills and objectives taught by this program.

We are also supporting the development of training courses for treating young children with substance use disorders, including how to handle trauma.

To effectively treat drug use, the first step is knowing what substances are being consumed. Experts, like you, work best when you know what cutting agents are mixed in with the base drugs, and so we are supporting the development of technology quickly and cheaply identify these toxic adulterants. A major step in this project takes place this week, with the first multilateral engagement of toxicology directors from laboratories around the world.

I’m proud that the training courses offered this week, including those on evidence-based interventions in prevention, case management and crisis interventions, basic counseling skills, and creating drug free communities, all use the latest science. They were created using evidence-based practices and were developed by the leading experts in the field of addiction.

The purpose of the training programs is not only to train prevention and treatment staff, but help trainers receive the credentials needed to go on and share their knowledge through trainings in their home countries. This ensures more people have access to the care they need.

This curriculum and research will also be further disseminated with the help of Colombo Plan’s International Center for Credentialing and Education of Addiction Professionals recognized educational providers and universities. Later this week Humphrey Fellows alumni will have the opportunity to meet one another, and sessions where university staff can learn more on how to integrate UPC and UTC trainings into university course curriculum.

It takes a tremendous amount of effort – from communities and families – to treat and recover from the physical and emotional trauma that leads to or is caused by substance use.

This week you will be surrounded by the experts in the field that have helped to create these opportunities and I encourage you to get to know one another and share your experiences.

On behalf of the U.S. Government, I want you to know how proud we are to be associated with you, with this cause, and with supporting the work you do.

Thank you for time, energy and passion.