The City of Cape Town, aided by business and religious sectors and backed by provincial government, is making substantial progress in the fight against substance abuse.
“Individuals, organisations, and governmental departments have created their own plans in isolation for too long,” says Letitia Bosch, City Substance Abuse Co-ordinator. “We recognise that work needs to happen together in order to bring about progressive change, so we’ve joined up with NGOs, CBOs, FBOs; officials from provincial and local justice; police, probation and correctional services; education, health, social development, business and community structures to work toward a common goal.
“These entities will work with City subcouncils, ward forums, sub-district health forums, community police forums and civil society.”
The collective effort is already reaping results. Provincial and local government are consulting on joint projects; a new treatment model for drug and alcohol abusers has been instituted; and two new City centres for substance abusers are to be launched to complement the two that opened in 2008.
The treatment, which is offered free of charge, is based on methods developed by the Matrix Institute in the USA. The goal of the model, which is a 16 week structured programme for adults, is to provide help so that addicts can stop using illicit substances, stay in treatment, learn about addiction and relapse, receive ongoing support from a trained therapist, become involved in self-help programmes and be monitored. Treatment sessions, which involve individual, group and family therapy, are offered three times a week.
The treatment is offered on an outpatient basis at the Tafelsig Matrix Site in the Tafelsig Clinic (021 397 8195/ 397 8906) and the Tableview Matrix Site in the Tableview Clinic (021 557 1065/6). A third matrix site will open in Delft South in the near future and a fourth one is on the cards, although the location is still to be finalised. Anyone willing to receive treatment for a substance abuse problem can either call or visit the matrix site closest to them. They will be screened on the same day and will either slot into the programme or be referred to the appropriate help for their particular situation.
People seeking general advice can also phone the City’s 24/7 Alcohol and Drug Helpline on 0800 43 57 48 (0800 HELP 4 U). Eight trained staff, working two per shift, provide general information and refer callers to the appropriate resource. They do not offer counselling.
“We also intend looking at best practice prevention methods and starting the process of formalising standard preventative programmes which can be used by all City departments involved with prevention programmes,” says Ms Bosch.
“Presently, areas are being targeted for prevention as determined by requests from communities and community organisations.
The City wants to make information and treatment accessible to local residents. It seeks to link help with those in need. It is also about getting everyone involved and committed to tackling the problem, says Ms Bosch.
According to the Medical Research Council (MRC) more than 50% (six out of ten) of those in treatment centres in the Western Cape are under 20 years of age and use Methamphetamine (Tik) as their primary drug of choice. Tik, alcohol and dagga are the most common drugs used. Recent statistics show that Cape Town also has one of the highest number of heroin users in the country – in excess of 15 000. Illicit use of these substances places a hefty burden on the City and Province’s health, social welfare and criminal justice systems, and wreaks untold damage on individuals and family and community systems.
“Illicit drugs affect all of us in one way or another” says Councillor Grant Pascoe, Mayco member for Social Services. “We all know someone, who knows someone who has a loved one with a drug problem. It is not only the user who is affected - the entire family suffers. Illicit drugs contribute to crime, particularly violent crime; child abuse and neglect, family violence and mental and physical health problems - not only for the user, but family members as well. The solution lies in tackling both the demand and supply of drugs.
“Illicit drugs know no boundaries of race, gender, religion or financial and social status. They damage individuals, families and communities around the world on many different levels,” he says.
The City’s work in combating illicit drug use is based on its Alcohol and Drug Operational Plan for 2007–2010. The plan underpins its alcohol and drug related programmes and policies and is informed by the National Drug Master Plan (2006–2011), which has itself been drafted in accordance with the stipulations of the Prevention of and treatment of Drug Dependency Act (No 20 of 1992).