Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday set up a two-member committee to prepare a comprehensive de-addiction and rehabilitation plan for victims of the drugs trade in the state, after studying the outreach model suggested by an eminent American drug therapist and consultant.
Underlining his commitment to the total eradication of drugs, backed by rehabilitation of the patients, the Chief Minister acted quickly on the recommendations of Dr. Kanwar Ajit Singh Sidhu to announce the setting up of a panel to study and consider the feasibility of the implementation of the Outpatient Opioid Assisted Treatment (OOAT) programme proposed by the US-based expert.
Captain has asked the two-member committee, comprising Principal Secretary, Medical Education and Principal Secretary, Health & Family Welfare, to work closely with PGI specialists to develop a focused strategy to strengthen the state’s network of drug de-addiction and rehabilitation centres.
The decision followed a presentation to the Chief Minister by Dr. Sidhu, who said the proposed OOAT model, focused on cure through compassion, was completely safe and designed to prevent future relapses. The model envisages a system of specially trained Duty Medical Officers to be deputed at each de-addiction and rehabilitation centre for the supervision of the 5-stage OOAT treatment process, consisting of induction, stabilisation, maintenance, termination and follow-up.
The Chief Minister, himself a strong proponent of compassionate de-addiction and rehabilitation, agreed with Dr. Sidhu's observations, saying the victims of drug abuse needed to be treated with compassion in order to bring them back into the mainstream of the society and enable them to lead a life of dignity.
The low-cost model proposed by Dr. Sidhu envisages a separate division to run the programme, which will involve the services of nearly 200 counsellors, besides outreach services of Asha workers, MPW/ANM and peer volunteers.
Training for the workers would be provided by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, Dr. Sidhu informed the Chief Minister, according to an official spokesperson.
As of 2016, Punjab has 33 government sponsored de-addiction centers and 5 tertiary care centers having a combined capacity of 600 beds with additional 1100 beds at rehabilitation centers. The treatment provided at these centers is primarily based on the abstinence model (demand reduction) which starts with detoxification and abstinence based healing strategies. Opioid agonist treatment is used minimally and is concentrated to district headquarters only where psychiatrist is available. In addition, there are around 70 private de-addiction centers in the state where both inpatient and opioid agonist treatment is available. These facilities are highly inadequate to tackle the problem of rehabilitation of the drug addicts – a gap which OOAT will fill, according to Dr. Sidhu.
With opioid addiction widespread over the state, an extensive outreach program is needed with easy access to patients rather than being limited to select centers that are accessible to few. As the illness is lifelong there is a need to develop permanent addiction services setup to address future relapses. The treatment should be accepting towards the patients and addresses drug education, treatment and relapse prevention, said Dr. Sidhu in his presentation.
The meeting was attended, among others, by Health & Family Welfare Minister Braham Mohindra, Media Advisor to CM Raveen Thukral, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Tejveer Singh, ADGP and Chief STF on drugs Dr. Harpreet Singh Sidhu, Principal Secretary Medical Education Vikas Pratap, Special Secretary Health & Family Welfare Vikas Garg and Director Health & Family Welfare Dr. H.S. Bali.