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International Visitors explore policies to address drug use in Louisville and the Philippines

From June 27-July 1, a group of four Filipino officials and professionals from different sectors including the federal government, local government, non-governmental/private organizations and law enforcement visited Louisville to learn about Kentucky’s efforts to reduce demand for illicit drugs and improve rehabilitation programs for addicts.

Visitors spent two days attending meetings with various organizations and officials, including the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness where they discussed a
newly implemented, long-term program aiming to address the root causes of drug abuse and
reduce addiction in the Louisville area. Visitors also attended a roundtable discussion to explore
ways the Philippines can improve drug rehabilitation programs and reduce illicit drug use in the
country. The roundtable included professionals from CenterStone Rehabilitation Center, the
Morton Center, the Healing Place and other local organizations.

At the state capitol in Frankfort, another meeting was attended by the Executive
Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP), Van Ingram, as well as Dave Hopkins, the administrator of the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting System (KASPER), which tracks prescriptions of controlled substances and medications throughout the state. Also in attendance were officials from the Kentucky Medical Licensure Board and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. During the program, the breadth and complexity of the drug epidemic in Kentucky was addressed along with the historical causes of the opioid epidemic. The ODCP also addressed the ways that the epidemic was being addressed by various departments and organizations in Kentucky, with policies including prescription limits, “Good Samaritan” laws and education on the use of Narcan (Naxolone)—a medication used to treat drug overdoses. Kentucky has also become the state with the second-highest number of safe syringe exchange programs in the country, reducing both Hepatitis and HIV transmission and providing a space for addicts to get help.

Visitors from the Philippines also educated local officials about issues with illicit drugs in the Philippines and the efforts made across government and private facilities to reduce addiction and drug  production. They discussed the framework of a rights and evidence-based approach in the Philippines to treat addicts and explored ways that policies from the U.S. and Kentucky could be adapted for the Philippine model.

Overall, the visit was a very exciting look into the drug epidemic both in the U.S. and
Kentucky as well as the Philippines, and introduced ways that the countries can learn and work together to tackle the transnational issue of addiction. The trip was concluded by an active day at the historic Mammoth Cave National Park and the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.

ASEAN breaks deadlock over South China Sea

Lesley Wroughton and Martin Petty

          Lesley Wroughton and Martin Petty


Southeast Asian nations overcame days of deadlock on Monday when the Philippines dropped a request for their joint statement to mention a landmark legal ruling on the South China Sea, officials said, after objections from Cambodia.

China publicly thanked Cambodia for supporting its stance on maritime disputes, a position which threw the regional block’s weekend meeting in the Laos capital of Vientiane into disarray.

Competing claims with China in the vital shipping lane are among the most contentious issues for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with its 10 members pulled between their desire to assert their sovereignty while finding common ground and fostering ties with Beijing.

In a ruling by the U.N.-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration on July 12, the Philippines won an emphatic legal victory over China on the dispute.

The Philippines and Vietnam both wanted the ruling, which denied China’s sweeping claims in the strategic seaway that channels more than $5 trillion in global trade each year, and a call to respect international maritime law to feature in the communique.

Backing China’s call for bilateral discussions, Cambodia opposed the wording on the ruling, diplomats said.

Manila agreed to drop the reference to the ruling in the communique, one ASEAN diplomat said on Monday, in an effort to prevent the disagreement leading to the group failing to issue a statement.

The communique referred instead to the need to find peaceful resolutions to disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, including the United Nations’ law of the sea, to which the court ruling referred.

“We remain seriously concerned about recent and ongoing developments and took note of the concerns expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations and escalation of activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region,” the ASEAN communique said.

In a separate statement, China and ASEAN reaffirmed a commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea and said they would refrain from activities that would complicate or escalate disputes. That included inhabiting any presently uninhabited islands or reefs, it added.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said a page had been turned after the “deeply flawed” ruling and it was time to lower the temperature in the dispute.

“It seems like certain countries from outside the region have got all worked up keeping the fever high,” Wang told reporters.

China frequently blames the United States for raising tensions in the region and has warned regional rival Japan to steer clear of the dispute.

MAJOR POWERS ARRIVE

The United States, allied with the Philippines and cultivating closer relations with Vietnam, has called on China to respect the court’s ruling.

It has criticized China’s building of artificial islands and facilities in the sea and has sailed warships close to the disputed territory to assert freedom of navigation rights.

Meeting U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice in Beijing, Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi said both countries need to make concerted efforts to ensure stable and good relations between the two major powers.

“So far this year, relations between China and the United States have generally been stable, maintaining coordination and cooperation on bilateral, regional and international level. Meanwhile, both sides face challenging differences that need to be carefully handled,” said Yang, who outranks the foreign minister.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Laos’ capital on Monday for the ASEAN regional forum and East Asia summits. He is expected to discuss maritime issues in a meeting with Wang, as well as in meetings with ASEAN members.

Kerry will urge ASEAN nations to explore diplomatic ways to ease tension over Asia’s biggest potential military flashpoint, a senior U.S. official said ahead of his trip.

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