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DOH admits lack of drug treatment facilities, practitioners in PH

The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday said the Philippines is lacking drug treatment and rehabilitation centers (TRCs), as well as doctors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers providing services in these facilities.

During the DOH’s launch of a training program in addiction in its TRC-Bicutan branch, TRC-Bicutan chief of hospital Dr. Alfonso Villaroman said there were around 1.3 million drug users recorded in the Philippines in 2019 and of which, 1% were considered as drug dependent.

Currently, there are only 32 government TRCs across the country.

Villaroman said each facility has around 100 beds, which could accommodate an estimated 3,200 patients nationwide.

"Probably less than 10,000 ang kailangan ipasok sa rehabilitation center [people need to be placed in rehabilitation centers]. Ang general problem natin [our general problem is]—where do we put all of them?" he asked.

Section 75 of Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, states that the national government, through its appropriate agencies, "shall give priority funding for the increase of subsidy to existing government drug rehabilitation centers, and shall establish at least one drug rehabilitation center in each province, depending on the availability of funds."

Villaroman said this is why there is a need to professionalize and standardize drug treatment to give priority to drug dependents and remove the stigma about drug addiction.

DOH Assistant Secretary Charade Mercado-Grande also admitted that there is still a need to establish more TRCs to cater to other patients in provinces that have none. 

"Ang buong Pilipinas, hindi naman lahat ng kada probinsya ay may TRC. Subalit, ang ating referral network sa ating mga TRCs na located sa iba’t ibang parte ng Pilipinas ay gumagana," she said.

(In the entire Philippines, not every province has a TRC. However, our referral network in our TRCs located in different parts of the Philippines is working.)

"We recognize na kailangan pa nating dagdagan, subalit hindi rin natin masabi na hindi tumutugon ang ating Kagawaran sapagkat patuloy kada taon na nabibigyan ng pagkakataon para ma-enhace ang kanilang facilities at kanilang pagtulong sa mga pasyente in terms of their budget," she added.

(We recognize that we still need to add more TRCs, but we also cannot say that DOH is not working on it because every year, TRCs are given the opportunity to enhance their facilities and their assistance to patients in terms of their budget.)

Grande said the DOH will recommend the possible adoption of standardized training for all TRCs nationwide.

As to practitioners in TRCs, Villaroman said that there are also not enough of them to help in the rehabilitation of drug-dependent Filipinos.

"As presented by the different specialties... pinakita nila ang statistika na kulang tlaga. Ilan lang ang psychologist lang nagpa-practice ng addiction. Kulang ang nurses na nagpa-practice ng addiction. 200 lang ang social workers na nagta-trabaho bilang addiction specialist or addiction workers. Lalong lalo na ang doktor, iilan lang kami sa gobyerno ang nagta-trabaho, so talagang kulang na kulang kami," he explained.

(Statistics presented by the different specialties showed that they are lacking. There are only a few psychologists who practice addiction. There is a lack of nurses who practice addiction. There are only 200 social workers who work as addiction specialists or addiction workers. Especially the doctor, there are only a few of us in the government, so we are really lacking.)

In November last year, the Marcos administration launched an anti-illegal drug advocacy program dubbed Buhay Ay Ingatan, Droga’y Ayawan (BIDA). This program will work with barangays, the church and religious communities, and families to address the drug problem and rehabilitate those addicted to illegal drugs. —VAL, GMA Integrated News