Preventing drug-related deaths in substance abuse services

Mies istuu kalliolla.

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The goal of the assessment

The assessment’s main question was whether Helsinki has strengthened its services to prevent drug-related deaths. This topic was examined by assessing whether the city has facilitated access to drug treatment and opioid substitution treatment for people suffering from drug dependence, and whether the city has developed health counselling and social guidance to prevent drug-related deaths. The City Strategy 2021–2025 outlines that the city will prepare a set of measures to address the growing use of substances in a humane and comprehensive way and to reduce the harm and deaths caused by drugs.


Helsinki has strengthened substance abuse services that prevent drug-related deaths with good results with regard to access to opioid substitution treatment and detoxification. Substance abuse services have taken many measures to facilitate access to treatment for people suffering from drug dependence. These measures include extending the hours for walk-in receptions and phone services for adults and young people, establishing a dedicated substance abuse service for young people, and improving the process for assessing opioid substitution treatment. However, some of these measures were new at the time of this assessment or lacked reliable and comparable monitoring data. Thus, the effects of the measures on substance abuse services other than opioid substitution treatment and detoxification could not be assessed. The lack of suitable facilities is the biggest obstacle to developing substance abuse services.

The Audit Committee concludes that

the Urban Environment Division should, in cooperation with the Social Services, Health Care and Rescue Services Division, 

  • ensure that there are sufficient and appropriate facilities available for substance abuse services to provide statutory substance abuse services. 

the Social Services, Health Care and Rescue Services Division should 

  • improve the quality of statistical data on clients and visits to substance abuse services. 
  • monitor the effects of reforms related to substance abuse services on access to services, treatment and rehabilitation. 
  • develop services on the basis of monitoring, if necessary. 
  • strengthen the cooperation between substance abuse and psychiatric services so that patients are treated holistically.

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