Punjab’s first de-addiction centre fails to get patients

  • Usmeet Kaur, Hindustan Times, Amritsar
  • Updated: Dec 27, 2015 21:05 IST
A view of the deserted look of Government Drug Rehabilitation Centre in Amritsar on Sunday. (Sameer Sehgal/HT Photo)

The state government’s much-hyped and ambitious Rs 5-crore project of Punjab’s first drug de-addiction centre here, which was opened with much fanfare in July 2015, has failed to get patients even as the district is known to have a large number of drug addicts.

This is evident from the fact that even after five months of opening, only 8 patients are being treated at the 100-bed Swami Vivekananda Drug De-addiction and Treatment Centre, giving it a deserted look.

The irony is that even as the number of drug addicts are increasing with each passing day, the first state-run de-addiction centre could not even cure 100 addicts in five months. The maximum strength of inmates at any time during this period has never topped 25.

The rehab centre has dismally failed to admit patients and it clearly shows that the state government was just keen to invest crores on infrastructure at the centre.

Sources said the administration has made no efforts for creating awareness against drug addiction and getting patients for the centre. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had announced that the centre would not only treat patients from the district but would also be open for addicts from the neighbouring districts.

Only the patients who come to the centre for detoxification are admitted at the facility. The other patients come and go at their own will as the centre charges them Rs 250 per day.

“Rs 250 per day comes to around Rs 22,500 for three months. The majority of those who come to stay here do not stay for more than 10 days, and they cannot be cured in that period, increasing the number of relapse cases. Those who pay also complain about the centre not providing them adequate facilities,” said a class 4 employee of the centre on condition of anonymity.

Skill development programmes yet to become operational

In September 2015, a team of a Delhi-based NGO, Sun Foundation, had visited the centre and gave a proposal to deputy commissioner (DC) Ravi Bhagat for providing trainers for the de-addiction centre, equipment and also hold skill development programmes for the inmates but nothing has been done till now.

Dr PD Garg, (head of psychiatry department at Amritsar Medical College) is in-charge for treatment of patients at the drug de-addiction centre while the DC is heading the Drug De-Addiction and Rehabilitation Committee, responsible for managing the centre.

Bhagat said the fee being charged at the centre may be deterring drug addicts from the economically weaker section and working class from seeking treatment.

“The only way to get addicts admitted to the de-addiction centre is to create awareness about the evils of addiction and enrol addicts for skill development for which I would meet the higher officials,” he added.

A visit to the centre on Sunday revealed the lackadaisical attitude of the staff and management committee at the centre as the attendant at the reception was missing for a long time and there was only one counsellor on duty. Physiatrists were also absent.

“Rehabilitation can only be successful if the patient remains admitted for a minimum of three months but we are not able to hold back the inmates at the centre as they leave due to several reasons. An awareness drive would be held next year and we will try to get more addicts admitted to the centre but for that we should be able to provide them requisite facilities, which are missing at present,” said Dr PD Garg.

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