Bhutan Government go-slow holds up rehab

An interim rehabilitation centre will open next month while the proposal for the first fully equipped rehabilitation centre at Gidakom gets approved, say officials from the youth development fund (YDF) and Bhutan narcotics control agency (BNCA).

The one-year interim rehab centre will function in a rented house in Thimphu with 40 patients. A programme coordinator, an addiction expert and four counselors, who are presently undergoing training in India, will make up the staff. The rehab will be jointly run by YDF and BNCA.

Drop-in centres pay lip service to addiction
The one room drop-in centre (DIC), located above the taxi parking in Thimphu, is the only place in town where drug addicts can go for counsel. There are another two such centres in Gelephug and in Phuentsholing.But the absence of a proper rehabilitation centre has crippled the role of these DICs, said a staff member. The centre in Thimphu sees about two drug and alcohol addicts each in a day and about 10 recovering addicts.  

The three staff of the Thimphu DIC said that counselling at the centre has not helped the addicts. They reason that, once the addicts step out of the centre, they were free to revert and it was difficult to get hold of them.

“A few addicts come in an semi-conscious state and stay around for a while for counselling. They go away and never return and we can’t keep track of them all the time because it puts our lives at risk,” said a staff Dorji.

Parents of recovering addicts also come to tell them the need for a rehabilitation centre.

The head of demand and reduction division of BNCA, Chhador Wangdi, said that the delay was because the government has yet to respond to their proposal. “Otherwise, we’d have started the interim centre from last month,” he said.

The interim project will cost about three million ngultrum. UNICEF and the UN office of drugs and crime (UNODC) will sponsor Nu 1.5 million and the government will fund the rest.

The project will provide support and counsel to individuals and their families. Their support will help build confidence and skills to enable addicts to take up a meaningful role in society. It will focus on the empowerment of addicts and alcoholics between 13 and 30 years.

The old rehab centre, REWA, set up by two recovering addicts, was closed in February last year after its staff was accused of killing an addict. The responsibility was then borne by drop-in centres, which remain ineffective in the absence of follow-up support.

A rehab centre is vital and the circle of treatment will not be complete without it, said the YDF director, Yangdey Penjor. “We can’t guarantee that such incidents won’t happen at the new centre with all addicts under one roof, but the new project will be run professionally,” she said.

“There are many other addicts, who want to support this program but, since there’s no rehab, we have nowhere to go and meanwhile live with addiction,” said a recovering addict, Choney Dorji.

Another recovering addict, Ugyen Tsheten, said, “There’s a need of a proper centre where addicts can interact to realise the goodness in them and live a better life.”

Records with BNCA show 1,398 arrests made between 2001-2008 for drug abuse. Police arrested 418 drug abusers in 2008, of whom 344 were under 24 years.

By: Tandin Wangchuk
Source: Kuenselonline

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