A successful initiative of flexible treatment for substance abusers

Better Stories, Better Stories, Denmark, Human and fundamental rights

To alleviate the impacts of COVID-19 policies, many initiatives have been developed by civil society organisations – NGOs, local governments, or citizens. A team of national researchers from the RESISTIRÉ project has collected and highlighted a set of particularly relevant initiatives in 27 European countries and in Iceland, Serbia, the United Kingdom and Turkey. These Better Stories cover eight specific domains: gender-based violence, the labour market, the economy, gender-pay and pension gaps, gender care gaps, decision-making and politics, environmental justice, human and fundamental rights.

This Better Story was collected by Stine Thidemann Faber and Lise Rolandsen Augustine.



Reden (‘The Nest’) is a shelter for women in substance abuse and prostitution located in the inner city of Copenhagen and established in 1984. When public life effectively closed down due to the pandemic, the shelter decided that extraordinary measures had to be taken to protect the most vulnerable women and substance abusers.


Protecting the most vulnerable

Women who come to Reden often already had a fragile health and they ran an increased risk of COVID-19 infection because they still were/felt compelled to make money and buy illicit substances because of their addiction. Moreover, the often cannot meet the normal treatment conditions of the municipality: there are rules and criteria they have to adhere to (for instance, having to be at a specific place at a specific time), with sanctions involved if they cannot meet these.


When crises lead to creativity

With the urgent need to find a solution in the hectic days after the lockdown, those responsible for the substance abuse treatment decided to introduce a much more flexible treatment regime: instead of the women having to come to the municipal treatment centre, the treatment moved out to Reden’s premises to meet the women. This outreach approach proved to be much more effective than the alternative because the women felt more secure, and it became easier for the outreach team to build a durable relationship with them. They were able to reach women that they had never had success in reaching previously.


A successful initiative

This initiative was made possible by a successful collaboration between the local drug treatment centre and the municipal authorities of Copenhagen.

Apart from the obvious positive human impact, the new flexible substance abuse treatment also seems to be using fewer resources, as physicians are not waiting for people not showing up to their appointments.

The initiative has been such a success that the Municipality of Copenhagen has chosen to allocate extra money towards them, initially until the end of 2020 and subsequently until 2024 as part of the municipal budget negotiations.


Find out more about the initiative


Photo by Rene Böhmer on Unsplash