On 2nd February 2004, the Open Society Fund Lithuania together with 12 other NGOs established the “I Can Live” Coalition to represent interests of vulnerable social groups, such as drug users, people, who are infected with HIV or live with AIDS, sex workers, inmates and recently released from detention places.
The official partners of the Coalition became the Lithuanian National Health Board, which coordinates health policy and provides recommendations to the Parliament and the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, Vilnius Centre for Addictive Disorders, which provides the full range of drug related services and actively participates in forming the social and health-care policies of the Municipality of Vilnius. The Centre has established good relations with different level educational institutions, Public Institution “Vilnius Centre of Skin and Venereal Diseases” as well as Public Relations Agency “Vox Populi”.
On 19th October 2005, the Coalition registered its Statute and became the Association “I Can Live” Coalition. At present, the Coalition unites eight non-governmental organisations and nineteen experts aiming at provision of effective solutions to problems associated with addictive diseases and related issues in Lithuania as well as forming safe and healthy society.
At the beginning of its activities, the “I Can Live” Coalition focused on the development of activities related to drug harm reduction in Lithuania, where contemporary programs were neither common, nor applied. Meanwhile, many European Union member states and other countries worldwide saw the successful implementation of harm reduction programs, which reduced negative impact on social, economic and public health consequences linked with drug use (e.g. delinquency, prevalence of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, C, other communicable diseases, overdosing, risk of other drug-related mortalities, etc.)
Although harm reduction programs were officially implemented in Lithuania since 1995, when the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania published respective legal acts, in spite of the lack of information and improper interpretation of the programs on the political level, often the activities and their practical application were assessed ambiguously and negatively. It respectively caused obstacles for smooth progress of the programs, their legal regulation and practical implementation.
Being aware of benefits brought by the harm reduction programs, which helped to solve drug use and HIV prevalence related problems, the “I Can Live” Coalition endeavoured at legitimating the programs in Lithuania. Discussions with various stakeholders (politicians, municipality servants, healthcare specialists, education establishments, law enforcement officers) had been initiated, during which reasoned information, based on facts and scientific research about harm reduction programs as one of the most effective means to solve drug addiction problems was provided. Opportunities to implement and expand the programs in Lithuania were discussed. Together with mass media, the Coalition educated the society about harm reduction, produced considerable amount of information publications, contributed to establishment of essential means of harm reduction and appropriate legal acts to regulate the implementation of the means country wise.