São Paulo paves new drug treatment path in Cracolândia

The Pan-American Post, 1/27/2014

After years of São Paulo officials employing forced treatment and other heavy-handed tactics to fight the city’s crack epidemic, Mayor Fernando Haddad is trying a new approach. But his attempts to implement a health-based, humane line of attack against crack abuse are being challenged by state police, who favor more orthodox law enforcement practices.
Earlier this month, Haddad announced a strategic shift in the city’s battle with rampant crack cocaine use in the central slum popularly known as Cracolândia.  He unveiled “Operation Open Arms,” a new program which provides housing, food and work opportunities to those living on the streets in the neighborhood. Inspired by the success of similar programs in the Netherlands and Canada, participants will receive roughly $6.50 USD a day in exchange for cleaning parks and other public places. They will also be given meals, medical care and group housing in local motels, according to G1. Giving up drug use is not a condition for participating in the program, though participants will be encouraged to do so and will have greater access to addiction treatment programs.  Some 300 people have been enrolled in the program thus far, and were moved into motels after their improvised shelters were demolished on January 14 and 15.
While Haddad has touted the program as a bold embrace of harm reduction-based treatment, some are skeptical of the program. As the Christian Science Monitor notes, many view it simply as an attempt to temporarily clean up the city’s streets in time for the World Cup. Several drug treatment experts who work in Cracolândia told the CSM they are doubtful that the program can offer a long-term solution to crack addicts.
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