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Few takers for drug rehab, says DOH

Photo shows an aerial view of the Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija. File photo

MANILA, Philippines - The Mega Treatment and Rehabilitation Center at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija has downsized admission of in-patient drug dependents from 10,000 to 500 as a majority of drug surrenderees do not need in-patient rehabilitation, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.

The facility was designed to support the campaign against illegal drugs. The original plan was for the facility to have 10,000 beds but it was reduced to 2,000 and then to 500.

“We see that in the last seven months, there is really no need for residential type of facility because the community-based program is now operational. This will be more manageable,” Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said in a press conference.

Despite the downsizing, Ubial maintained the 500-bed facility would still be the DOH’s biggest rehabilitation center in the Philippines.

“We are taking it one step at a time because we have no existing model of how the mega treatment and rehabilitation facility will be operationalized. There is no mega facility outside of the Philippines. This is the first of its kind. The facilities that we know abroad is only 200 to 300 beds,” she added.

Under the rehabilitation program, trained health professionals have been screening drug surrenderees at the community level to determine who among them need to be brought to rehabilitation centers. 

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The program is voluntary and before the DOH can take in a patient, the agency has to secure a court order first. The drug dependents could come from among the surrenderees or from other rehabilitation facilities.

“There was hardly a volunteer. I think only less than 10 of the patients from Bicutan facility actually went to Nueva Ecija. We cannot force them to go there if they don’t want to. It’s on voluntary basis,” Ubial said.

Currently, 133 drug dependents are being treated at the mega rehabilitation center, which was put up by donations from the private sector.

Ubial said the plan now is to put up more rehabilitation centers with 500-bed capacity across the country.

Meanwhile, in Negros Occidental, 40 more drug users availed themselves of the rehabilitation program. They were turned over by barangay captain Jerry Tingson to the City Anti-Drug Abuse Council (CADAC) and the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) last Saturday. – With Gilbert Bayoran

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