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Local gov’ts cope with drug rehab woes

/ 12:05 AM August 08, 2016

PROSPERIDAD, Agusan del Sur—Gov. Adolph Edward Plaza prefers to call drug addicts persons with “Substance Use Disorder” (SUD) and believes that all is not lost for those who are hooked on drugs as long as they are treated well.

The frenzy of mass surrender of thousands of people during the past few weeks since the Duterte administration declared a relentless campaign against illegal drugs trafficking and abuse over a month ago gave Plaza the idea of setting up an Outpatient Drop-In Center (ODIC) at the provincial capitol here.

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Plaza, 54, who admitted to having gone through rehabilitation several times when he was a heavy drug user in his youth, says he is more interested in ODIC than the regular treatment center, which, he added, would only physically detoxify an addict but not really help address the person’s attitude.

The center is one of the projects on-stream in various parts of Mindanao as local governments and law enforcement agencies confront a serious shortage of rehabilitation facilities as a result of the antidrug drive. So far, the campaign has claimed over 300 deaths (which some quarters view as summary killings) and thousands of surrendering drug peddlers and users.

‘Balik Pangarap

In Kidapawan City, the local government has launched the “Balik Pangarap” program, which aims to help “recovering addicts” for their return to their communities.

A livelihood training institute for those who had surrendered is being considered in Davao City. Armed Forces officials in Zamboanga City are now conducting an inventory of facilities in military camps to be able to function as rehabilitation centers.

“I’m not ashamed of (being a former drug addict) because I reformed and went on to become governor of this province. I don’t want to be judgmental and condemn everyone,” Plaza said.

Setting up an ODIC was a “long cherished dream” that has been always restrained by the lack of local expertise until he crossed path a few years back with Mark Larry Chua, an international addiction therapist and a consultant for the United States Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

“He’s like manna from heaven” was how the governor described Chua after he finally agreed to work with him in vigorously pushing an alternative drug rehabilitation platform in the province.

Narcotics Anonymous

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The ODIC will use the 12-step addiction recovery program developed by Narcotics Anonymous, which, Chua said, would be more effective in reforming—through different counseling methods—drug dependents. The method is being used in several developed countries, including the US and Australia.

Chua, who hails from the interior town of San Luis, has been going around the province to talk to those who had surrendered and see if they are fit to be in the ODIC. Based on a study conducted by the center in San Francisco town, only six drug users there were at a “severe” risk” stage while 45 were at “moderate” risk.

“Those who are rock-bottom SUD victims are good materials for counselors,” Plaza said.

The ODIC is temporarily housed at the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office while waiting for a new building. Its funds come from the maintenance allocations of offices in different departments. Plaza said the center would receive a regular budget next year.

“We need volunteers but these volunteers must have experience on substance disorder so that they already know the components of treatment like assessment and other activities,” Chua said.

Home-based rehab

Kidapawan Mayor Joseph Evangelista said psychologists would be hired to monitor the behavior of “recovering addicts” who are undergoing rehabilitation.

“We will examine their drug dependency. If it is okay to have rehabilitation process at home, much better. But those who really needed to be in accredited drug rehab centers, we will help until they fully recover,” Evangelista said.

The city government will also work with the Technical Education Skills Development Authority and the Alternative Learning System of the Department of Education in extending assistance to recovering addicts.

In Davao City, the drug recovery facility in Tugbog district has already surpassed its full capacity of 100 admissions in its three dormitories. Last month, it had only 80.

At present, the Davao City Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Drug Dependents has at least 114 clients, of whom 35 are minors, mainly boys. Its manager, Dr. Gene Gulanes, said the number suddenly spiked following the intensified antidrug campaign of the Duterte administration.

More admissions

Gulanes said the center had to make adjustments to admit more people from as far as the provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. “We’ve pulled out extra beds from the female dorm since there are fewer female residents,” he said.

“Should we continue to be swamped with court orders for more admissions of clients from outside the city, I would probably be forced to write back the court and respectfully decline,” Gulanes said.

Councilor Diosdado Mahipus, vice chair of the city council’s peace and public safety committee, said the proposed livelihood training institute for drug suspects would be managed by the city government in partnership with the private sector.

“We should be ready to accept them (drug suspects) into the mainstream, providing them livelihood and jobs as part of their rehabilitation,” Mahipus said.

The military’s plan to conduct an inventory in its camp facilities in Zamboanga City for possible use in drug rehabilitation was in response to President Duterte’s pronouncement in his State of the Nation Address last month.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Gen. Ricardo Visaya ordered the inventory, Col. Edgard Arevalo of the military’s public affairs office told the Inquirer by phone.

“The AFP welcomes this pronouncement as one of its various contributions to the drive, and in support of the thrust of the President to rid our society of illegal drugs and the crimes they bring about,” Arevalo said.

The military has doctors and other health practitioners who could boost the requirement for the rehabilitation of confessed illegal drug offenders, he says. With reports from Chris Panganiban, Williamor Magbanua, Allan Nawal and Julie Alipala

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