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The Russian Project

Half of all deaths in working age men in the country are due to hazardous drinking. Men of working age are three-and-a-half times more likely to die than men in Britain.
                       BBC News 15 June 2007, based on Lancet study.

Russia is 1st in the world in alcohol consumption. The World Health Organization considers an average per capita consumption of 8 liters pure alcohol a year to be a sign of a country with a dangerous level of alcohol consumption. Current Russian consumption is 14.7 liters.


According to Russian government statistics, 40% of men and 17% of women are active alcoholics. One in three families has at least one addict. The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD) a multi-national study of students' use of tobacco, alcohol and marijuana (2003) found these rates of use by Moscow students:

  • 86% reported any alcohol consumption, 53% drunk in past 12 months
  • 22% reported using marijuana or hashish
  • 4% reported use of any other illicit drug
  • 7% reported use of inhalants
  • 7% reported tranquillizers or 3% sedatives without doctor’s prescription
  • 74% reported lifetime prevalence of smoking cigarettes, 44% in last 30 day.


OPORA (the Russian word for "support") is a Moscow-based non-governmental organization, established in 1997. OPORA originated with an international conference on substance abuse in cooperation with the Russian Ministry of Health. OPORA’s vision is that addiction prevention and recovery resources will be available in every city in Russia, so that every person has access to help. OPORA has trained over 3000 people in addiction and 12-step programs; implemented 60 recovery groups in 31 cities; produced radio broadcasts; and published recovery materials in Russian. OPORA’s Russian staff consists of Co-Director, administrative workers, trainers on addiction recovery and prevention, and a number of adjunct faculty from the Russian professional and international community. OPORA employs a medical doctor (addictionologist), four psychologists and three counselors.

In 1999 OPORA was asked to design and pilot an alcohol and drug prevention curriculum. As OPORA already was acquainted with Linda and David Sibley (Family Resources International) they asked them to help create this curriculum. Soon thereafter a team of U.S. Prevention Specialists (Julie Scales, Betsy Rockett, David and Linda Sibley, and Rosemary Tisch) began work on a prevention curriculum, later titled Keys to Healthy Living.

American Writing Team
American Writing Team
(From left: Julie Scales, David Sibley, Betsy Rockett, Rosemary Tisch, Linda Sibley)


Keys was written as a classroom based, substance abuse prevention curriculum. It was adapted and translated by OPORA staff. Its development with training of OPORA staff and evaluation were at no cost to OPORA thanks to the generosity of PPI donors. It currently consists of two versions:

Keys is unique as it addresses the prevention of chemical dependency, incorporating the special needs of children living with addiction, with adaptations for children with learning differences and those exposed in utero to alcohol and other drugs. The analysis of evaluation data for Keys to Healthy Living was completed by Shirley Sparks-Grief, Associate Professor Emerita, Western Michigan University and Adjunct Associate Professor, Retired, Santa Clara University.

"Keys clearly was effective and made a difference in the lives of these children."

Training in OPORA's 
Training in OPORA’s offices

Keys is currently being implemented in orphanages, schools and shelters for street children in Moscow, plus the following sites:

Astrakhan - 750m (miles) SE of Moscow
Cheboksari - 400m east
Tosno - 75m SE of Peterburg
Dimitrov - 50m north
Izhevsk - 625m east
Tashkent (Uzbekistan) - 1650m SE
Poltava, Ukraine
City Counseling/Treatment Centers:
Summer Camps for Street Children:
St. Petersburg - 375 m NW
In Juvenile Detention Centers:
Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Cities that trained teams of other professionals to use Keys:
Poltava, Ukraine
Tashkent, Uzbekistan


In addition to developing Keys, OPORA and PPI have co-initiated several delegation exchanges:

August 2003: Irina Yakubova, Director of OPORA, and Irina Osokina, Chief Deputy of the Department of Social Services of Moscow Government and a former member of the Moscow Duma, visited Santa Clara County, CA., to learn about nonprofit administration, fundraising and the prevention of substance abuse. Their trip was supported by the Rotary Clubs of District 5170: San Jose, Cupertino and Palo Alto. Outcomes were: (1) OPORA was officially invited to train staff in all children’s centers in Moscow (including street children shelters) on prevention and on implementation of the Keys curriculum; (2) The Mayor of Moscow allocated $20,000 for a Delegation of the Department of Social Welfare District Directors. (Each District of Moscow serves approximately 1.2 million citizens.)

December 2003: Sixteen delegates from Moscow visited Santa Clara County, CA. for 10 days. The Delegation was supported by the Santa Clara County/Moscow Sister County Commission and the Rotary Clubs of District 5170: San Jose, Cupertino and Palo Alto.

“The trip was a revelation for those who attended and started the initiative towards a change in our system. The delegates gained (1) new understanding of substance abuse as a disease and knowledge that it can be treated, (2) awareness of the influence of parental substance abuse on children, coupled with the need to work with the whole family and (3) knowledge of the need for cooperation between organizations that influence the lives of children. Delegates returned with a desire to take action on what they saw.”       Irina Yakubova

As a result (1) Moscow Social Services signed a contract with OPORA to train a team of professionals from each of the ten Moscow Districts over the next three years with the goal to deploy programs to reduce high risk behaviors in youth and to provide a District Coordinator (trained) for education and mobilization of Community Prevention Coalitions. This initiative included establishing cooperation between Ministries of Education, Justice, and Health, based on the model seen in California. (2) OPORA was appointed to the committee that evaluates prevention efforts and programs in Moscow.

May 2004: PPI staff returned to Moscow for further meetings with District Social Welfare Directors, Moscow City Officials, touring of four Children’s Shelters, and to provide further training and consultation for OPORA.

“Shelters and orphanages are open doors for Keys and Celebrating Families!
These people (Social Welfare) know and trust our California partners.”
                                                                        Irina Yakubova

April 2006: The Santa Clara County/Moscow Sister County Commission conducted an official Delegation visit to Moscow to explore the creation of a counterpart in Moscow to facilitate an on-going program of exchange. Outcomes of this trip were: (1) formal agreement between City of Moscow and Santa Clara County to work together and (2) further visibility for OPORA/PPI’s work in both Moscow and Santa Clara County. The delegation was co chaired by Supervisor Liz Kniss, representing the Board of Supervisors, and Commission Chair Mary Ellen Chell. Meetings were held with (1) Georgiy Muradov, Director International Relations Department of Moscow City Government (the organizational entity responsible for contact with foreign entities); (2) Alexander Krutov, Deputy of the Moscow City Duma and Chair of the Commission on Inter-Parliamentary Connections; (3) U.S. Embassy staff and representatives from USAID, (4) the Director of the Social Protection Department of the City of Moscow, and (5) Laptev Leonid, Ph.D., Deputy Rector of the Faculty of Social Work, Pedagogics and Psychology, Russia Social University and President of Regional Nongovernmental Organizations. The Moscow City Government - Department of Social Protection was the primary host of the delegation visit, with logistics and translation services provided by OPORA. Daily site visits to Social Service Programs were scheduled, including visits to the Department Headquarters, a Social Rehabilitation Center for Veterans, Arbat Center of Social Services, Pinnate - a private school, Kopteva Family Center, Horoshevo Shelter Mnevniki, Northwest Administrative County Prefecture, and Fili-Davidkovo Center of Social Services.

Liz Kniss, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisor, Alla Podunova, Assistant Prefect on Social Issues for NW District Rosemary Tisch, PPI Director Meeting with Director of Social Protection Department City of Moscow


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