Power of Purpose: A Glimpse into the Successes of the ISSUP Philippine Chapter

The past year has been one of tremendous success for the ISSUP Philippine Chapter, which has demonstrated notable growth, recognition, and impact in the short time since our establishment. In that time, we committed ourselves to building strong relationships with the Philippine government and many other organizations, both domestic and international. This has been crucial in positioning ourselves as a valuable source of expertise, allowing us to at once build firm foundations for the chapter and to advance our advocacies. The following initiatives, while not exhaustive, are an example of the growth and impact that the chapter has achieved in the short time since its establishment.

On the international level, the World Health Organization has endorsed and awarded the Philippine Addiction Specialists Society (also known as PASS, the host organization of the Philippine Chapter) with a research grant to develop a Draft Implementing Policy on Community-based Mental Health (CBMH) and Harmonized Policy Agenda for Mental Health and Substance Use Integration. Under this project, PASS will review policies and legal documents on Philippine mental health and drug rehabilitation systems; using the insight from this review, it will then draft implementing policies that uses CBMH and policy agenda in order to further integrate mental health services and substance abuse rehabilitation at the community level. The product at the end of this is a complete recovery system for substance abuse victims which is tailored to the sense of community and belongingness inherent in every Filipino.

In addition to this, Dr. Mariano Hembra represented both PASS and ISSUP Philippines at the Japanese Alcohol and Drug Addiction Conference 2023 at Okayama, Japan last October 13-15, 2023. There, Dr. Hembra spoke on the topic of "Feedback on the Project INTERPRET/ENTREPOSE of JICA in the Philippines," sharing his perspective as a member heavily involved in the development of these projects to the conference participants. Projects INTERPRET (Intensive Treatment and Rehabilitation Program for Residential TRCs for Drug Dependents) and ENTREPOSE (Enhanced Treatment Program for Outpatient Services for Drug Users) are the product of collaboration between the Philippines and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to implement evidence-based relapse prevention programs to rehabilitation centers in the Philippines, running the gamut from inpatient treatment interventions to outpatient services.

On the national level, the Department of Health has tapped the Chapter as a key participant in the Philippine Council for Mental Health (PCMH) Strategic Plan 2024-2028, which aims to improve the state of mental health services as a whole in the Philippines. The Chapter's role in this context is to collaborate with other groups to provide technical expertise on the current state of mental health services, identify prevalent concerns in the process, and to then develop more targeted interventions for them.

On the individual level, the chapter provides opportunities for skill improvement and learning through different vectors; these include the collation of webinars, conferences, and training events held by organizations we are partnered with as well as those that we conduct ourselves. We have been especially involved in a collaboration with the Dangerous Drugs Board to hold accreditation training for physicians in each of the 17 Regions of the Philippines. As we conduct these training sessions, we also invite them to become members of both ISSUP and PASS, growing our organization at the same time.

This is the key strategy inherent in all of our Chapter activities - we ensure that multiple goals are met with each action, attaining benefits not only for us, but with each entity we cooperate with. It is this factor that has allowed us to achieve so much in only a year since our inception. As we stride forward in the coming years, we will continue to expand the scope of our activities to leave a larger and lasting impact to the communities of the Philippines.