JIS News

Substance abusers and their families in a number of communities across Jamaica, have begun to benefit from the first ever set of integrated counselling clinics.These have been established by the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), in collaboration with the National Health Fund (NHF), and the Ministry of Health.
The community clinic project, which was officially launched on (Jan. 29) at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston, is already operating in most of the 10 clinics and serve substance abusers, persons living with HIV/AIDS, victims of trauma and violence, as well as children with delinquent behaviours, and their parents. The NHF is funding the two-year pilot project in the sum of $11.8 million. Speaking at the launch, Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer welcomed the initiative, pointing out that the NHF has been doing a sterling job in assisting projects such as these. “It is a major development in the prevention and treatment of substance use and abuse. More importantly, it sends a very clear message to those who are struggling, families and communities (to) take heart (and) take courage, that there is help,” he said.
He said the project comes against the background of consistent effort locally, regionally and internationally to address substance abuse as a significant public health and human security.
The Minister pointed out that the 2007 World Drug Report recorded 25 million problem drug users in the 15-64 age group in the world. Meanwhile, he noted that in Jamaica, there are some 187,000 persons who are addicted to various substances.
“This health, social and security problem transcends boundaries or race, religion and class. It transcends the dichotomies of public policies and service and provides a most compelling case that supports the idea that health is not the exclusive domain of health workers,” Mr. Spencer said.
Therefore, he emphasized, public policies must seek to integrate drug treatment into public health, security and social services.
The Minister further highlighted that the 2006 national schools survey found that an illegal drug has been used by 43 per cent of the 4,536 students who were randomly sampled across 70 schools. The substances most frequently used by these youngsters include, cigarettes, solvents, inhalants and marijuana (ganja).
Mr. Spencer said it is well known that there is a link between substance use and high risk behaviours, such as unprotected sex, crime and violence, and that these have a significant impact on the country’s public health system. “It is clear that a successful substance use and prevention programme, will have a positive impact on crosscutting areas such as crime and violence, and HIV/AIDS,” the Minister said.
According to Executive Director of the NCDA, Michael Tucker, the care clinics would provide two types of services. These include targeted interventions and programmes, and referral services, which would feature parenting skills, professional counselling, intervention and support. There would also be general support for general community members who are having problems, a counsellor development programme addressing substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, and crime and violence.
The referral service will be offered when problems encountered at the clinic cannot be dealt with at that level, and the appropriate institution that can deal with the nature of that problem will be recommended.
An evaluation will also be done of the existing treatment and rehabilitation facilities. Seven of the care clinics are already open, and a venue for a care clinic in the St. Catherine community of Portmore, is being sought.

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