Drug rehabilitation and counseling centres that use faith-based ideals as their starting point cannot rely purely on religion to aid substance abusers. This according to Western Cape MEC for Social Development at the opening of the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre in Mitchell’s Plain’s Eastridge neighbourhood on Friday.
The area had recently been plagued with gang violence, and has been designated by local police as a ‘red block’ that needs urgent focus. Violence in Eastridge has been linked to turf – turf Fritz says is linked to the trade in the very drugs initiatives like the CTDCC aims to aid community members in shaking off.
But on organizations such as these, Fritz said the medical aspect of drug rehabilitation is as important as the spiritual.
“The foundation is faith based but the medical aspects that are required are still there; I’ve been at a centre where people just sing hymns all the time… that is not treatment. That is an example of a misguided faith based centre… in fact we’ve stopped funding them. That is why I’m quite happy to see that there is the spiritual side, the individual’s purpose, but there are also the medical interventions, and that is exactly what the people need,” he said a few minutes after cutting the ribbon to officially open the centre.
He said young residents of townships like Mitchell’s Plain who are addicted to drugs give a skewed image of the true face of these areas’ young population. He said the manner in which young residents go about serving their addiction makes them a target for the media and the rest of the population, to assume most youth in the area are drug users.
“The majority of young people are not like that here, but they [drug users] are so vocal and open, stealing, getting caught using and getting arrested, so we should not run with the impression that we are ‘losing’ our young people to drugs. We have great young people, who are great at school and do positive things in their communities, and those are some of the ways they can colonize the space the drug lords and addicts inhabit,” he said.
Fritz said young people who are drug users should not be criminalized, and should rather be placed into programs like the CTDCC to stem the addiction at an early age. He said further collaboration between the Department and the police and security cluster is on the cards.
“Our point of departure is that SAPS and the Department of Community Safety will continue with what they do, closing drug dens and chasing after drug lords. We will take on the pathological side of things, treating [them] by creating alternatives. This is so that when that boy or girl in Grade 8 experiments with dagga or something else we can find an alternative so that they don’t go back. We will be having meetings with police and Community Safety to discuss the idea that when they catch someone they shouldn’t immediately criminalize them, like the boy who recently posted about forcing his sister to smoke dagga, my first instinct is not to lock him up but to rather assist him in finding the root causes of his behaviour.”
The CTDCC centre is an outpatient program open on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Eastridge’s Civet Street. VOC (Andriques Che Petersen)