Too many users, too few rehab centers
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Neither the government nor the private sector has the capacity to rehabilitate all or a fraction of the 30,000 drug users in Central Luzon region who have surrendered to the police since July, based on what addiction treatment facilities are operating now.
The Department of Health (DOH) Treatment and Rehabilitation Center, the only government-run facility in Central Luzon, had 190 residents as of July 19.
This number was double the 100-bed capacity of the center, its chief health program officer, Dr. Joel de Leon, said here.
The center is constructing its second 100-bed building seven years after it was established on a 1.8-hectare lot in Barangay Liyang here.
“We had 170 residents before President Duterte took office. The local government of Orion (Bataan province) wants us to accept 67 dependents but we can’t accept them all,” De Leon said, citing budget and space limitations.
Families who can afford to pay shell out P8,000 monthly during the eight to 12 months of treatment of their kin. The center has several poor residents whose treatment is subsidized by the government, De Leon said.
That rate can strain the finances of local governments if they support 100 dependents for a minimum of eight months which would cost them P6.4 million.
Sharing the responsibility with local governments is the best option to sustain the treatment, De Leon said.
Four others centers run by nongovernment organizations but accredited by the Dangerous Drugs Board may not take dependents by the thousands.
The biggest, the Central Luzon Drug Rehabilitation Center (CLDRC) in Barangay Sto. Niño in Magalang town has 693 slots left. In its current care are 507 patients.
Operating on a 6-hectare land owned by the Pampanga State Agricultural University, CLDRC was initiated in 1999 by former police officials Roberto Calinisan and Conrad Briton, the late Arayat Mayor Benigno Espino and trustees of the Sagip Bie Foundation in 1999.
DOH supports CLDRC with a P1-million monthly grant, supplemented by proceeds from the P6,500-monthly fees from patients.
The Bulacan Drug Rehabilitation Foundation Inc. in Bulakan town and the Nanay Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center in Pandi town, both in Bulacan province, and Rebirth Phils. Therapeutic Community Foundation Inc. in Pilar, Bataan province, are modest-sized facilities.
There are only 248 accredited dangerous drugs examiners in the country. The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (Republic Act No. 9165) tasks them to evaluate drug users who submit voluntarily to treatment and rehabilitation.
Drug users seeking treatment need to submit clearances from the court and police.
If examiners conclude that a subject had been experimenting with drugs or was a recreational and infrequent drug user, they can undergo counseling.
Community-based treatment and care facilities hardly exist in the region.
But with the surge in the number of surrendering users, a new protocol has been established for assessing and assisting users, said Dr. Leonita Gorgolon, DOH Central Luzon director.
“But it is still up to rehabilitation centers whether to accept a court clearance [that patients have no pending case] or a waiver to be signed by the relatives [of the patients],” she said.
For now, the Pampanga provincial government is the only local government known to be negotiating with the DOH center and CLDRC to take in those needing treatment among 10,234 users and pushers who have surrendered.
It is also thinking of developing a rehabilitation center at the foothills of Floridablanca town.
The provincial government received the endorsement of the Pampanga peace and order council to allocate P10 million to reform drug users.
“We can’t just make them surrender and leave them hanging in the air. If we want to end this war against prohibited drugs, we should strive to make them useful citizens again,” said Vice Gov. Dennis Pineda.
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