No state rehab for drug addicts

By Shaanaaz de Jager, Janine Oelofse and Barbara Hollands

EASTERN Cape families of addicts are being drained financially as there is no state-funded rehabilitation centre in the region, and funding one currently in the pipeline remains a challenge.

The Garden Route has several  private rehabilitation centres but the vast majority of those  facing addiction to alcohol and drugs rely on one free outpatient facility at the SA National Council on Drug Abuse and Alcohol Dependence (Sanca) in George.

Eastern Cape Department of Social Development spokesman Gcobani Maswana confirmed there was no state rehabilitation centre as yet, “but the department is in the process of establishing one. The non-availability of funds is a challenge but the department is working on it”.

However Eastern Cape Health Department head of specialised services Dr Tobela Nogela said there was a substance abuse unit at Fort England Hospital in Grahamstown for in-patients aged 18 and older.

Nogela added to access the services there was “a waiting list and prior to being admitted the patient needs to go to a district hospital or non-government organisation (NGO) for detox and apply to access the services”.

Fahldeela Salie from the Survivors Life-Skills Centre at the Ruven Centre in Korsten, Port Elizabeth, said despite promises from social development a state-run drug rehabilitation centre was unlikely.

“They are under so much pressure themselves in terms of cost-cutting and a shortage of staff and vehicles,” Salie said. 

The Survivors centre had seen a “definite increase” in people needing help since opening in April, she said.
“The enormity of the drug situation in PE alone has grown way out of control. We have had patients from as far as Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The number of kids from the more  affluent northern suburbs has escalated. We are looking at an average of 15 individuals per month entering the facility.”

Shepherds Field Kibbutz Rehabilitation Centre founder Gerrie Cronje said the centre catered for men aged 18 and older. “Currently we have five patients who don’t pay and four who pay a reduced rate. Families sometimes can’t afford to pay. We get up to 10 calls per week from desperate people wanting to place loved ones under 18.

“A state-run facility is urgently needed, but for teenagers as well,” Cronje said.

Amanda Wolmarans, social worker at Welbedacht Treatment Centre,  agreed there was a need for a state-run facility, “especially for teens”.

“We get daily calls from desperate parents and sometimes schools. Unfortunately we only cater for 18 years and older,” Wolmarans said.

Former heroin addict Andre Marais moved back to PE to establish  support service Searchlight Intervention and Education. “We do not charge fees and rely totally on donations,” Marais said.

Some private rehab centres charged “astronomical fees”; however “their running costs are very high because they have to employ professionals at market-related salaries to meet legal requirements, plus cover overheads like food, rent, electricity and water. This makes it impossible to provide ‘cheap’ live-in programmes”.

“It is unfortunate that there are no facilities for people without money in the Eastern Cape and is a serious concern considering the rise in [drug] use and abuse. It’s not just the Eastern Cape which is affected as there are very few state facilities in South Africa,” Marais said. 

Brenda Pienaar, head of Sanca in the Southern Cape, said of the 500 new cases they dealt with every year, 60% were for alcohol dependence. There is a government rehab facility in Worcester in the Western Cape and Sanca also refers patients to private rehabilitation facilities.

Colin Garnett, director of the private Bethesda Recovery Homes in Plettenberg Bay, said medical aid covered rehab at Bethesda for 21 days once a year, leaving patients to come up with around R5000 to cover a 28-day stint. “In 28 days you are only covering the tip of the iceberg.”

This is a shortened version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, October 6, 2012.

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