Social Services & Counselling
Social services are an important aspect of health, particularly for anyone thinking of retiring to Italy. In comparison with many other European countries, there's a marked lack of social and home-nursing services for the elderly in Italy. You will almost certainly need to pay privately for a home help, although many towns provide a visiting service for housebound elderly invalids. There are a number of private, purpose-built retirement developments, but few state nursing homes or hospices for the terminally ill (the majority of which are run privately by nuns).
Italy's provision for the disabled has improved in recent years due to a recent law making special access for disabled people compulsory for all public buildings, including banks, offices and schools. In addition, motorway service stations, major tourist sites and hospitals must provide toilets that accommodate wheelchairs. Wheelchair services are provided at most airports, although it's wise to enquire in advance. For further information about assistance for disabled people, contact the Associazione Italiana Assistenza Spastici, Via Cipro, 4/H, Rome (( 06-3973 1829).
The national health service provides free counselling and advice on health and relationship problems through its network of local family health
centres (consultorio). Services usually include marriage and family, psychiatric and sexual counselling, and legal advice (for divorce and separation). Advice on contraception and family planning, and ante-natal care for pregnant women
are also provided. Appointments can be made directly without the need
for a doctor's referral. Counselling for the disabled and elderly is sometimes
Many provinces have special telephone helplines for women (telefono rosa) and children (telefono azzurro), where confidential help can be obtained, e.g. in cases of physical and sexual abuse; numbers are listed at the front of telephone directories. The free national helpline number for those experiencing a crisis (SOS Salute) is 167-822 150.
A nation-wide drugs information service is available at local Servizio per Tossicodipendenti (Ser. T) offices, which also run comprehensive rehabilitation programmes for drug addicts, including medical and psychological support, free HIV testing, methadone treatment, and accommodation and employment in rehabilitation centres. Ser. T offices also organise drugs awareness programmes in schools. To find your nearest office, contact your local health authority. A free phone number is usually available between 8am and 2pm and there's also a free national helpline number for drugs-related problems ( 167-166 00).
Information and free medical assistance for alcoholics (servizi di alcologia) are available through your local health authority. There are also many branches in Italy of the Association of Alcoholics Anonymous (Associazione degli Alcolisti Anonimi), together with its related groups for the children of alcoholics (AchoA and Al-ateen) and relatives (Al-anon).
Advice on a range of health issues, e.g. rape and other forms of sexual abuse, family therapy, women's health (including pregnancy testing, smear tests and menopause treatment) and IVF treatment are available at around 30 Associazione Italiana per l'Educazione Demografica (AIED) centres, which are run by a private foundation that seeks to promote social and cultural awareness of sexual issues. An annual subscription is normally payable, after which treatment is provided at a reduced cost.
This excerpt has been republished with permission from Survival Books. Some of the information may apply to EU citizens only. If you would like to get the inside track on moving to Italy, pick up your copy of this great book by clicking here.