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Monday's papers: Watchdog funding dispute, opioid trend worry, and 'Giving Tuesday'

Papers this Monday feature budget cuts to Finnwatch, a steep rise in oxycodone prescriptions and 'Giving Tuesday.'

Specialist doctors are worried about increasing opioid prescriptions in Finland. Image: Getty Images

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat (IS) starts off the week with news of a financing dispute between the government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä and civic organisation Finnwatch.

The watchdog, which deals in global corporate responsibility oversight, says their funding has been critically slashed by the government. However the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said subsidies for the group have remained stable in the past four years -- between 128,000 and 162,000 euros.

IS reports on the confusion between these stances this Monday, with Finnwatch executive director Sonja Vartiala saying the difference in the funding decisions of the previous governments (between 2011-2015) of then-PMs Jyrki Katainen and Alexander Stubb and the current Sipilä-run coalition is stark.

The main thrust of Finnwatch's work is kept afloat with subsidies to what is called "communication and global education" (or CGE). The organisation says that while their support sums for developmental aid have indeed increased, they are not being directed toward their most critical domestic concerns, but rather funneled through them straight to their co-operators in countries such as India and Thailand.

Finnwatch says it has not received any CGE funding since 2016, and that that decision was made by Sipilä's government.

"This CGE support is used to develop communications within Finland, and it has been our most important form of funding for years," said Vartiala in IS. "Our core task is to raise discussion and awareness of corporate responsibility in Finland."

The Foreign Ministry's project assistant Hannele Hupanen says in the IS piece that there is no ideological reason for the government denying Finnwatch their CGE money.

"Government subsidy applications are open to everyone, and each application is assessed on its own merits year by year."

Opioid use worries professionals

Meanwhile daily Helsingin Sanomat writes this Monday on the quickly rising prevalence of the opioid painkiller oxycodone. National pension institution Kela figures show that the number of users has increased by the thousands – from 37,000 recipients of the drug in 2016 to a projected 45,000 by the end of 2018.

"This is extremely worrying," according to pain clinic specialist Tarja Heiskanen.

Oxycodone is a highly potent pain relief medication, the abuse of which has skyrocketed in the United States since the 1990s, leading to an ongoing opioid epidemic.

"It is always troubling if a physician jumps straight to opioids when treating pain," Heiskanen says in HS. "In specialist medicine we usually offer oxycodone as a last resort, and there are very many patients for whom opioid treatment is simply wrong."

Substance abuse hospital chief physician Margareeta Häkkinen says she sees more and more addicts being treated for whom oxycodone is their main problem. In fact, the HS article writes, the most common diagnosis among drug rehabilitees is opioid addiction. Users of amphetamine outnumber opioid users, but the withdrawal symptoms of opioids are far more severe.

Heiskanen says that treating long-term and chronic pain is extremely challenging, and true victories are rare.

"Pain must be treated, but this is not the way," Heiskanen says.

Giving not buying

A new form of social activism encouraging charity and goodwill, called Giving Tuesday, will hit Finnish shores for the first time on Tuesday, 27 November, reports Turun Sanomat. The Finnish version of the campaign is coordinated by the NGO Vastuullinen lahjoittaminen ry (VaLa), meaning "Responsible Donation".

The campaign formed in 2012, inspired by the shopping phenomenon now known as Black Friday (often stretched to a four-day Black Weekend). The post-Thanksgiving spending spree originated in the United States in the 1950s, and Finland's retailers have adopted the heavily marketed consumption extravaganza in recent years.

VaLa chief Pia Tornikoski says in TS that the growing international popularity of Giving Tuesday comes from widespread worry over political, social and environmental issues.

"Giving Tuesday has spread out all across the world," Tornikoski says. "I am very happy that we will finally be launching the campaign in Finland!"

The initiative intends to inspire people everywhere to make gestures and actions – big or small – that are helpful and considerate, such as helping out a neighbour, donating to a charity or volunteering at an NGO.

Giving Tuesday, writes TS, has even surpassed the Christmas season spirit in the US in terms of donations. The campaign drew support from more than 150 countries last year. Organisations taking part in the Finnish debut campaign include the Finnish Refugee Council, the Finnish Veterans' Association and the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare.

At the same time Finnish Unicef's Black Friday fundraising campaign for children suffering from the humanitarian crisis in Yemen netted a record-breaking 200,000 euros in just over 24 hours, according to the organisation.

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