Plan of action for drug abusers
Substance abuse has been identified as a major societal problem in Barbados with a far reaching impact which cannot be measured in dollars and cents.
This was revealed by Minister of Health Donville Inniss at the stakeholder’s workshop which was held yesterday at the Savannah Hotel to disseminate the findings of the Technical Report on Substance Abuse Programmes in Barbados and to draw up a multi-sectoral plan of action for the implementation of its recommendations.
The Minister of Health called for a more aggressive, multifaceted approach to tackling the problem, stating that it was not only a health problem alone, but a society-wide problem. Inniss noted that Government’s expenditure for substance abuse services had grown significantly from $26 000 disbursed during the 2002-2003 financial year to $1.1 million disbursed on a fee for service basis for the treatment of clients during the 2009-2010 financial year.
Residential substance abuse facilities received a total of $5.5 million over the past seven years, while since 2007 counselling services received an annual subvention of $60 000 for its community-based out- patient programmes that focus on services for the adolescent and female populations.
However, the minister noted that those amounts did not factor in funds for the Psychiatric Hospital and the toll on the family and caregivers of those affected. Inniss called for Government to be a bit tougher with the suppliers of illegal drugs in Barbados, noting that, “if we are too gentle with those who are responsible for having the drugs in the street, we are fighting a losing battle”.
He added that substance abuse permeated the entire society and was not a problem only in working class districts. Therefore, he added that there was a need for all existing drug treatment facilities to upgrade their services to provide more comprehensive interventions, but also for all levels within the health care system to adopt a more integrative approach to the promotion and management of health.
Based on the technical report which was the outcome of an evaluation of the existing substance abuse programmes that was commissioned by the Ministry of Health and carried out with the assistance of the Pan American Health Organisation, Inniss said, the Ministry had taken steps to institute regulations which will ensure that the operations of all treatment facilities are systematically executed, from the licensing of the facility to clinical administration and treatment protocols. It is expected that the Health Services (Substance Dependency Treatment Facilities Regulations) 2010 will be passed in the near future to facilitate these requirements.
To this end, Inniss said emphasis would be placed on the development of sustainable substance abuse facilities and added that the Government could not deal with the situation alone. He said the ministry was dedicated to the widening of community-based facilities and the expansion of the Mental Health Community Nursing programmes to the polyclinics was a step in that direction as mental health care could not be focused only to the Psychiatric Hospital.
The minister called for the removal of the stigma attached to mental health in Barbados, saying that mental health issues were like any other health issues that required attention. Relatives and individuals needed to feel free to come out and say they needed help, he said.