|Addicts receive methadone treatment in HCM City. –VNA/VNS Photo Phương Vy
HCM CITY – A 51-year-old former drug addict in HCM City’s District 1, who has been receiving a daily methadone treatment at a local health centre, now has a stable income as a motorbike taxi driver.
The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he received treatment from the District 1 Health Centre thanks to advice from a Community Consulting Site in the district’s Phạm Ngũ Lão Ward.
Methadone, a synthetic opioid, can be used to treat severe pain or opiate addictions, especially addiction to heroin.
“I was addicted for many years. I visited addiction treatment centres many times, but always relapsed,” the man said.
He began receiving assistance from the Community Consulting Site in early 2016 from its social workers who work as volunteers.
Another man, a 58-year-old from District 8, who tested positive for HIV, has also received support from a local Community Consulting Site.
In September 2016, he returned home from the Phú Văn Addiction Treatment and Social Welfare Establishment in Bình Thạnh District, but became more ill.
“At that time, I was very afraid of returning home because of my disease,” he said.
In 2017, he contacted the People’s Committee in District 8’s Ward 8 where a Community Consulting Site is located.
He later became a volunteer at the site. He has encouraged other drug addicts and people with HIV/AIDS to visit the site for consultations and treatment.
The consulting sites in District 8’s Ward 8 and District 1’s Phạm Ngũ Lão Ward are two of five pilot sites in the city with staff who have professional and technical training offered by the city’s Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs and the Center for Supporting Community Development Initiatives (SCDI).
The SCDI is an NGO that aims to improve the quality of life of the most vulnerable populations, including drug users, sex workers, and PLHIV (people living with HIV), their partners and their children.
The staff at the consulting sites are knowledgeable about hepatitis C, health insurance, and methadone.
Between 2017 and 2018, staff and volunteers at the five sites provided consulting to 879 people and free health insurance cards to six people.
They persuaded 42 addicts to accept community-based treatment and introduced 72 other addicts to methadone treatment at health centres in the city.
They also helped 22 former addicts find jobs and six others to access loans totalling VNĐ110 million (US$4,746), and connected local sponsors to help support addicts with financial difficulties.
Huỳnh Thanh Khiết, deputy director of the city’s Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said the city’s community consulting sites play an important role in reducing the number of addicts brought to addiction treatment establishments.
“The city plans to reduce the number of these addicts by 6 per cent by 2020,” Khiết said, adding that the city has nearly 12,000 addicts being treated at these establishments. Of these, 70 per cent live in the city.
“The city’s total number of managed addicts is more than 18,000,” he added.
Nguyễn Tuấn Anh, deputy head of the city’s Social Evils Prevention Division under the department, said that his division would work with local people’s committees to allocate funds for these community consulting sites so they can improve their operations.
“The city now has 125 community consulting sites,” Anh said.
Lê Thị Loan, head of the social work team at the Community Consulting Site in District 4’s Ward 8, said the shortage of funds was the main barrier to operating well.
“When an addict wants to give up but there is no supportive environment or assistance from local authorities, they can relapse easily,” she said.
Nguyễn Hoài Hương, deputy director of SCDI, said the consulting sites would help addicts access community-based treatment
“That is why SCDI worked with the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to set up these sites,” Hương said.–VNS