Drug rehab centre opens in Soweto

A sign hangs over the front door of the new government drug rehabilitation centre in Soweto: “To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also dream, not only plan but also believe.”

The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is the 3rd largest hospital in the world, occupying around 173 acres, with approximately 3 200 beds and about 6 760 staff members. (Image: Flickr)

A sign hangs over the front door of the new government drug rehabilitation centre in Soweto: “To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also dream, not only plan but also believe.”

The interior is crowded with bare doors leading to different rooms filled with necessities – play area, kitchen and neatly made beds – while posters detailing the effects of drugs on the body hang on the freshly painted cream walls.

Situated at the back of the busy Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, in what was known as the old Cerebral Palsy Clinic, it is hard to imagine that 20 or so youth live in this small centre. But they do so without complaint because it is the only place left where they can find hope.

Sitting quietly, the patients – who are mostly in their twenties – play board games with their counsellors. The mood is light and there is laughter. The Substance Abuse Treatment Centre is run by the government and offers free help to alcoholics and drug addicts who want to end their addictions.

The facility caters for over 18-year-old adults and is the first of its kind in Soweto. It administers in-patient treatment services, after-care services and referrals to outpatient clinics, as well as community-based services for youth, mostly from the south of Johannesburg.

Place of safety

“This is a place of safety and we really hope that they will feel at home and that they will look forward to being detoxified. We hope they become skilled so that when they look back they say this is where we came from and this is where we are today,” Gauteng MEC for social development Faith Mazibuko said after touring the newly opened facility on Friday, 15 May.

The patients took the opportunity to thank Mazibuko for the state’s efforts to help them get their lives back on track. “Thank you for this facility; we needed this facility. We needed this for a second chance in life,” said one patient.

Most of them said that after their time in the centre they wanted to return to their communities and teach other youth about the dangers of using drugs. Others, who had dropped out of school and college, wanted to go back and finish their studies.

“I have always wanted to be an engineer since it is a scarce skill in the country right now – I want to get cleaned up and go back,” said another patient.

Mazibuko said all members of society were affected by the monster of drug addiction, directly or indirectly. “You either know someone who has been affected within your circles or you are the victim of this terrible activity. Families have been dismantled, jobs and lives have been lost, and careers have been shoved down the drain all in the name of succumbing to the next fix.”

Counselling and treatment

The centre is staffed by doctors and social workers, and patients are counselled daily. “We offer hope to them,” explained one of the social workers.

Mazibuko hoped the centre would help to address a number of challenges, such as the high crime rate, which had been linked to drug abuse. It was especially welcome as private centres were expensive.

“As [the] government, we felt that we needed to play an important role in ensuring that all those who have been ravaged by these terrible things happening in our society – they can at least get into a place where they will receive stimulation, detoxification and proper treatment.”

She acknowledged that despite rehabilitation, most youth relapsed started using drugs again, but hoped the new centre would be beneficial. “Drugs will totally come out of their system and they won’t be on edge for looking for a fix. They will be better people and better citizens in Gauteng,” she said, adding that this would be achieved through the creation of halfway centres across the province.

They would offer skills development, which would help to empower the addicts.

Sanca referrals

Because the Substance Abuse Treatment Centre is small, local drug committees, which run drug awareness campaigns, help to identify people who urgently need rehabilitation. They can also be referred by non-profit groups such as Sanca, the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Speaking about the time it took to open such rehab facility in Soweto, Mazibuko said: “After the development of the drug master plan, which was developed after the pleas from Eldorado Park residents, it then became obvious that we as government had to find a way for it to be implementable.”

Gauteng has two other rehab centres – one in Cullinan and another in Magaliesburg. Mazibuko hoped to open more centres in Sebokeng, Ekurhuleni and Bronkhorstpruit.

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Source: SAnews.gov