Bahay Pagbabago: A template for saving lives of addicts
CAPAS, Tarlac — The local government here has become a case study of how best to help drug users get over their addiction, giving other towns and cities a template for making their places drug-free.
The Sept. 7 graduation of 437 “reformists” — the term Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan uses for rehabilitated drug dependents—represented the success of this town’s Bahay Pagbabago regimen of physical, psychosocial and spiritual activities for a minimum of two months.
Opened on Oct. 26, 2016, Bahay Pagbabago sits on a 895-square meter lot owned by the defunct Mt. Pinatubo Commission in Barangay Sto. Cristo, some 15 kilometers from the town hall.
“Private companies donated cash and items to help us convert a health center into a reformation center,” said Edgar Guevarra, chief of Capas public order and safety management office.
At least 526 drug dependents signed up for the program, in three batches.
The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the provincial government handled training programs on welding, housekeeping, pedicure, manicure, massage, food processing and cell phone repair. The Department of Education enrolled several of the reformists in its Alternative Learning System (ALS).
Family visits were allowed on Sundays. “So far, no one has tried to escape,” Guevarra said.
Catacutan said he discouraged the users from returning to their addiction by threatening to send them to two other drug rehab centers where programs were tougher — Central Luzon Drug Rehabilitation Center in Magalang, Pampanga, and Mega Drug Rehabilitation Center in Nueva Ecija.
He said he promised the reformers, who received skills training, that they would be priority in hiring when construction work starts on Clark City.
“You are lucky you were not jailed or killed,” he told the reformers.
For nearly a year, reformist Bernie Sicat spent two days each week sweeping the streets in Barangay Cutcut where he lives. Sicat presented himself each day to the village chief and signed an attendance sheet to show he had not disappeared.
“I like this setup,” said the 41-year-old father of five. Sicat said the program enabled him to continue driving a tricycle to earn a living and to be with his family.
Four drug tests revealed Sicat was clean of “shabu” (crystal meth) use. He was eager to claim his “certificate of reformation” which the former addict considered to be his redemption.
“Doing community service is better than being killed,” said Sicat’s wife, Rosalie. Their children understand their father’s situation, she said. —Tonette Orejas
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