PALMA'S Red Cross Metabus attended to 459 heroin addicts in Palma in 2005, an increase of 42 patients from the previous year and 305 from 2001.
The Metabus is an adapted ambulance that was set up in June 2000 as a mobile unit to dispense methodene and help wean addicts off heroin addiction.
Ana Espinosa, the coordinator of the Metabus scheme, who launched the program five years ago, contributes the increase in the number of patients to an improvement in the service rather than an increase in the number of addicts. The bus circulates Palma every day of the year, stopping at 12 distribution points across the city. The specialist Metabus team dispensers methodene to addicts that have been prescribed the drug but are unable to get to a medical centre to recieve it. The service that is financed by the Balearic Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs consists of the coordinator, Espinosa, two nurses, two security men, and two volunteers. The number of patients fluctuates every month between 240 and 277 people, the majority of whom are men. Besides distributing methodene, the program began distributing syringes and condoms last year, as part of a health campaign to reduce the spread of viruses such as Aids and hepatitis. They distribute them not only to addicts but to anyone who requests them. In the first programme they distributed 2'312 condoms and 1'800 syringes to 900 people.
The Red Cross insist that they will continue to maintain and develop the Metabus service.