TACLOBAN CITY – The Department of Health (DOH) is eyeing about P1 billion budget from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to establish treatment and rehabilitation centers for an estimated 1.8 million drug dependents in the country. “We need new facilities that can cater about 15,000 dependents. That would mean building new facilities that will cater to three times the current capacity,” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said during a press conference on Saturday (July 16).
Sec. Ubial was in the city to attend the 100th year founding of the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC). The country has 20 existing drug rehabilitation centers managed by the DOH and local government units with combined capacity of 5,000 people. Here in the region, the lone government-run rehabilitation center is located in Dulag, Leyte which is not fully operational after it was damaged when supertyphoon “Yolanda” pummeled the province in 2013.
Citing estimates of the Dangerous Drugs Board, Ubial said that of the 1.8 million drug dependents in the country, 18,000 of them needs in-house treatment. Given the existing number of rehabilitation facilities, the health department requires P270 million to carry out recovery initiatives for thousands of self-confessed drug dependents.
The requirement is expected to triple next year. This year’s budget request will mainly be used for capacity building for local government units to implement outpatient program for drug users with less serious addiction problem. “We asked our staff in DOH-Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers to multiply their capacity as we strengthen our support to local government units for them to lead in the community-based rehabilitation,” Ubial added.
Aside from local government units, the DOH also solicited the support of the Department of Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Social Welfare and Development, psychiatrists’ group and academe to assist drug dependents. “The idea is to have cadre of health workers that are trained to do the assessment. They will evaluate each drug personality if they are fit for outpatient program or residential program,” Ubial added. The DOH intends to standardize the assessment form they use for drug dependents who surrender to the authorities. President Rodrigo Duterte earlier identified Pagcor’s earnings as the source of funds for health-related programs, including drug rehabilitation. (SARWELL Q.MENIANO)