Partnerships build capacity to reduce substance abuse harm

Albert Fritz, MPP

Western Cape Minister of Social Development

Note: The following speech was delivered today by Minister Fritz at the UWC Community Engagement Substance Abuse graduation ceremony in the School of Public Health Building, Bellville.

Good morning, goeiemore, molweni.

I am honoured to be here at the University of the Western Cape to share such a wonderful occasion with you graduates.

But before I continue, allow me to thank;

  • Prof. Brian O’Connell – for that warm welcome, thank you Sir,

Allow to also acknowledge the presence of;

  • The lecturers and staff of the UWC, without you and your dedication we would not achieve the good results we are seeing,
  • All the graduates – of the courses, without you, we would have no chance of adequately tackling the substance abuse problem faced in the province.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am inspired by each and everyone of you here today. You are part of the solution to the challenge of assisting communities heavily affected by substance abuse.

The Substance Abuse Treatment Programme, and its 8 registered short courses, forms the backbone to helping create greater capacity. It is producing people in our communities greater equipped with dealing with substance abuse, and helping users beat their addiction.

This is why I am happy to attend graduation ceremonies such as this. I get to see how committed South Africans who want to help those who have taken up the battle to beat their addiction, grow in number every year.

Ladies and gentlemen without you, our plans to reduce the harm caused by substance abuse would amount to nothing.

As things stand this is no easy feat. The prevalence of addictive substances in the Western Cape is high, and has fuelled serious social ills.

That is why we need to be steadfast in our dealing with substance abuse, especially if we are to tackle other challenges such as, for instance, HIV/AIDS, the poverty trap, and the gangsterism.

As the provincial government we have a responsibility to tackle the grimy underworld which peddles the drugs. It is driven by a gang-culture that is incentivized to create dependency amongst users.

We continue to put pressure on the South African Police Services to reinstate specialized police units, as these would shatter the drug networks.

Equally the Justice Cluster need to mete out stronger sentences to convicted offenders, as this will act to create a necessary deterrent.

As it relates to alcohol, we have a responsibility to effectively regulate the sale of alcohol. Through our numerous campaigns, we place great emphasis on the responsible consumption of it.

However when all is said and done, the truth is government cannot do it alone.

If we are to truly make a greater dent, and rapidly reduce the harm caused by substance abuse, we need to adopt a whole-of-society approach.

This means our efforts must be coordinated. We need to act together in a strategic and targeted way, building more partnerships along the way. Indeed this partnership between the UWC and the DSD is a prime example of the power of adopting this approach.

The whole-of-society approach enhances service delivery, and is founded on creating greater agency, capacity, and action.

Such action needs the private sector, NGOs, religious formations, academic institutions, and most importantly individuals in our communities to get involved.

DSD Interventions

Ladies and gentlemen, we see the plight of desperate communities due to substance abuse. It creates serious social challenges, especially amongst the youth.

However, graduation ceremonies like today are proof that things are not all doom-and-gloom, and I am hoping each of you here today will continue to partner with us on our many initiatives.

Our whole-of-society approach is bearing results, and I can confidently say that the Western Cape Government is proud to be at the forefront of the fight against substance abuse in the province.

Our public policy response to substance abuse is about achieving harm reduction.

This why over the last 5 years we more than doubled the substance abuse budget, and this financial year we will be spending just over R82.6 million.

Our approach as government is to focus on;

  • awareness,
  • early intervention,
  • statutory services and,
  • after-care support programmes.

Over 10 157 people access substance abuse services in the province and our plans are to expand community-based treatment programmes with a focus on rural areas.

Child Treatment

The trend of drug and alcohol abuse is affecting younger people, and sadly this increasingly includes children. This is a trend we are working to reverse.

Indeed, the department is encouraged by the successful pilot projects which provide treatment and brief interventions for school children in Eerste River and Mitchell’s Plain.

We have now extended the project to Steenberg and Hout Bay, and will continue to expand into other parts of the province.

Matrix Clinic

I’m pleased to announce that a Matrix Treatment Clinic is on the cards for Atlantis.

True to the spirit of partnership, the Matrix Clinics are a joint venture between the City of Cape Town, the DSD, and SANCA.

This clinic should be up and running within the next few months, bringing the number of Matrix sites to seven.

Opiate Substitution Programme

In order to address the rising use of heroin in the province, we have embarked on an outpatient-based Opiate Substitution Treatment programme in Mitchell’s Plain.

The project has now been running for 8 months, and the feedback from Sultan Bahu, another of our NGO partner in this venture, is that the first two intake cycles of clients are responding positively.

The latest report indicates that of the first cycle, 16 out of 21 clients (76.5%) whocompleted their statutory phase, are still testing negative in their continuum of care.

The second cycle of 24 clients is currently undergoing treatment, and only 4 are testing positive. This an encouraging drug-free percentage of 83.3% of clients.

This is most pleasing, as the result far exceeds the treatment outcome expectations reported in international literature.

Evidence-Driven Delivery

Ladies and gentlemen, from a government and public-policy perspective, we clearly have pockets of excellence.

However our department ascribes to the practice of continuous learning, and more importantly evidence-based delivery.

To this end, research from academics and research institutions is an invaluable tool for us.

I attended a Substance Abuse Impact Forum last week organized by the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) with its world-renowned researchers and scientists. Our relationship with the MRC, has indeed been an enriching one, and we are proud to work closely with them on many initiatives of the Department.

In fact, we had contracted the MRC to conduct a Service Quality Measurement (SQM) survey across the spectrum of treatment centres.

The findings and recommendations that came out of this survey will be implemented in this financial year. This will ensure service delivery of the highest standards to all our clients.

The latest research by the MRC successfully demonstrated how HIV risk reduction, through a decline in alcohol and drug use, also reduced the victimisation of women, and decreases risky sexual behaviours.

These findings only reinforce our view that harm reduction in substance abuse is a key goal to achieve if we are to tackle the many social ills affecting the province.

In this regard, I would like to repeat the notion that partnerships are very important.

The department is collaborating with other provincial and local government departments such as education, community safety, cultural affairs & sports, the City of Cape Town; and ofcourse, the University of the Western Cape. We also continue to work with NGOs and the private sector.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, in concluding here today, allow me to congratulate those graduating from the Substance Abuse Treatment Programme. This is merely the beginning of your walk to help residents of the province stay drug-free and reclaim their lives. May I also take this brief opportunity to wish all the women here today a happy women’s month.

The years ahead will require us to work even harder. We as a provincial government are determined to play our part and deliver, especially to women and youth. Key to this will be to adopt a whole-of-society approach, after-all success is best achieved “Better Together”.