In a bid to call attention to the scourge of substance abuse, this morning Western Cape MEC for Social Development, Albert Fritz, led a door-to-door substance abuse awareness campaign through the streets of Mitchells Plain. As a leading province showing an increase in substance abuse, Western Cape communities have in recent years been impacted by the prevalence of drugs, with seven Western Cape areas reflecting the highest cases of drug-related crimes on the 2016 Crime Stats worst ten precincts list.
Speaking to VOC Breakfast Beat, Fritz explains that the campaign is directed toward increasing awareness on issues that impact communities, as well as calling attention to the drug treatment services on offer.
“What is interesting is that we do a lot, but nobody knows what we are doing; up to R58 million is spent on substance abuse,” he stated.
He says that once teachers inform the department about substance abuse within schools, the department steps in and assists in the rehabilitation of pupils, who he notes are generally Grade 8 learners.
Given the fact that many children do not participate in any extramural activities, Fritz encourages children to register for existing after school programmes, steering their away from frivolous activity.
“When they are involved in sport, it is very unlikely that they would start smoking; I am amazed to see how soccer becomes a preventative programme – there are masses of children playing soccer and you don’t see a cigarette being lit.”
He further notes that at the level of government, departments need to work in concert and complement each other’s programmes in order to combat substance abuse.
Fritz says that the department has made strides in assisting in the alleviation of drug addiction, having increased the number of treatment centres in the Western Cape from eight in 2008 to 25 in 2016.
In light of the lengthy waiting list in state-owned drug centres, Fritz asserts that within the Western Cape the scourge of drug abuse is persisting and, therefore, urges substance abuse patients to register with community-based outpatient programmes.
“Substance abuse impacts everyone; even if my family is not taking drugs, someone is going to break into my house for money to purchase drugs,” he adds.
He says that the department is expanding to facilitate drug programmes in the West Coast, where residents are forced to venture to Cape Town for treatment.
Currently, the department has 54 community activists studying a course on substance abuse at the University of the Western Cape, while a number of the department’s social workers are completing postgraduate degrees in social work at the University of Cape Town and the University of Stellenbosch.
“Yes government must do more, but we need all of society to assist us, fund soccer clubs and churches. Today children smoke in front of their parents, so we need children to respect their parents,” he noted.