At least 700,000 drug dependents who had turned themselves in to authorities are refusing treatment for their drug addiction, the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) said on Thursday.
DDB Secretary Benjamin Reyes made the disclosure during a congressional hearing on pending bills that seek to establish more drug rehabilitation centers in the country amid the Duterte administration’s intensified war on drugs.
“What we wanted is to get a list of possible users [under Oplan: Tokhang of the police], but we did not expect that… so many drug dependents [would surrender]. We thought [that in]just going house-to-house, we’ll [be able]enlist [for drug treatment]a few [who had turned themselves in]. But the problem is we are having a tough time making these people on the list go back [to the authorities]for intervention for treatment,” Reyes told the House dangerous drugs committee.
In Antipolo City alone in Rizal province, east of Manila, only 30 of the 8,000 drug dependents who had surrendered returned for outpatient treatment courtesy of the DDB and the local government unit, according to the DDB chief.
“We thought, what happened? Why is that only eight of them showed up? Where are the rest of the 8,000? That’s why we wrote to General ‘Bato’ to ask if we can have Oplan: Tokhang again,” Reyes said, referring to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald dela Rosa.
Based on PNP records, 717,487 drug dependents have surrendered to the government after Rodrigo Duterte assumed office as President last June 30.
Of this number, 664,193 are drug users while 53,294 are drug traffickers.
But according to the Dangerous Drugs Board, only 37,000 of the around 700,000 drug dependents who had turned themselves in should be confined in a drug rehabilitation center while the rest can be treated as outpatients in community-based rehabilitation initiatives.
The DDB secretary, however, assured that the government is capable of sustaining a rehabilitation program for outpatient drug dependents.
Reyes said they have mapped out a strategy that enables local government units (LGUs) screenand assess conditions of the drug dependents through barangay (village) health workers and rural health units.
He added that they are expecting possible funding from PhilHealth to institutionalize community-based rehabilitation for drug dependents.
“The cost for the outpatient drug dependents would be minimal because we just have to capacitate the LGUs. That’s why we are calling on the LGUs to activate their Anti-Drug Abuse Councils, but we are also encouraging the private sector to pitch in,” Reyes said.
Under the proposed 2017 budget, the Department of Health has earmarked P3 billion for drug rehabilitation centers across the country.
According to Reyes, establishing a 100-bed drug rehabilitation center would cost as much as P144 million, on top of P51 million for personnel services.
Considering such huge amount, he said, lawmakers’ proposal for establishing a drug rehabilitation center per region is not feasible.
“It is impractical to establish a drug rehabilitation center in every province. We should have a drug rehabilitation center in every region as provided by our existing law first. What we need more of is community-based treatment so we can reduce the number of patients for confinement,” Reyes added.