An aerial photo taken from the sea toward the Helsinki Market Square and Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki continues to solve acute problems related to visible drug dealing and substance abuse

Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori invited a broad range of representatives to meet for a discussion on safety concerns caused by visible drug dealing and substance abuse in the Helsinki region. The goal is to help drug users and other substance abusers as well as to mitigate the adverse impacts of substance abuse in the region by further development and adoption of a new operating model created in early 2020.

The meeting, held on Tuesday, 29 September 2020, was attended by representatives of the Helsinki Police Department, the National Institute for Health and Welfare of Finland, Helsinki Deaconess Institute, A-Clinic Foundation, the civic and social organization Kalliola-konserni, the homelessness and substance abuse expert organization Sininauha Oy, the organization seeking to prevent substance abuse Ehyt ry, the substance abusers service and social organization Tukikohta ry, the expert organization Kokoa ry, and all City of Helsinki divisions.

“Although it is not a realistic goal to completely prevent drug dealing and substance abuse in the city, drug dealing and substance abuse must not be disturbing especially in the vicinity of day care centres, schools and youth centres. Earlier Helsinki did not have a model for dealing especially with situations emerging swiftly in some areas by means of cooperation between City divisions and the authorities. Such a model was created in the spring to improve the situation at the Stoa Square in Itäkeskus. We are now intensifying the cooperation again, after the adoption of the operating model was partially interrupted by the coronavirus situation,” Mayor Vapaavuori states.

From the City of Helsinki viewpoint, problematic situations should be intervened in without delay and with adequate resources, in order that the extension and escalation of adverse situations could be avoided. Emergency situations have continued to emerge, for example, in the vicinity of the Stoa Square. In addition, activities have been stepped up in a number of other areas including the Pengerpuisto park and the Kontula shopping centre area in the last few months. So far measures to deal with emergencies have included intensified security, surveillance cameras and increased street work in the Social Services and Health Care division.

“Substance abuse often arises from complicated problems. Problems are also accumulated and inherited. For this reason, we are now seeking to find new efficient and far-reaching solutions. We also need a more permanent structure inside the City organization, which can be used to solve acute security problems related to substance abuse. We are currently launching this operating model, and we need permanent representation in this model from the police, social services and health care professionals and other professionals, in order that activities can be integrated to support each other,” Mayor Vapaavuori continues.

The coronavirus crisis has increased the side effects of substance abuse and the distress of young adults

In the spring, as the coronavirus crisis evolved, the termination of day activities and many support services was seen on streets. As the coronavirus situation progressed, some of the customers of services began to deteriorate. This was the case especially with customers who had previously attended work activities or who had been occupied and had been able to take care of their affairs at day centres.

As the coronavirus crisis progressed, distressed young adults were also seen more often on streets. Their distress often emerges from complications such as mental problems, evictions and hidden homelessness. The situation often appeared to the police as increased disorder in public places.

By the end of the summer, customers were activated and many had sought detoxification treatment, institutional rehabilitation or other services such as housing support services. At the moment, there are no major delays in the provision of substance abuse services, and services well meet the demand. 

Photo: Suomen Ilmakuva Oy