On the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Jammu and Kashmir has a reason to celebrate. The prestigious drug de-addiction policy launched in 2018 in the new Union Territory has noticed the encouraging progress during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The J&K's health department has completed all the formalities to launch eight new integrated drug de-addiction centers across eight districts. The facility, run in different government hospitals and medical colleges of the region, is being established under the umbrella initiative of the Addiction Treatment Facilities (ATF) Scheme of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE). This initiative was the main agenda of the drug de-addiction policy.Â
During the lockdown period, the health department also started a school counseling program for children and trained nearly 120 school counselors in special intervention and rehabilitation in collaboration with the Directorate of School Education.
Earlier, the government had faced severe criticism for the delay in the implementation of the first-ever drug de-addiction policy by the Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (IMHANS), Srinagar in collaboration with the Department of Psychiatry, SKIMS, and the J&K State AIDS Control Society.
â€œThe ATF centers are aimed at boosting the de-addiction program in Jammu and Kashmir and to fight the menace of drug abuse to a large extent," said Dr Arshad Hussain, well-known psychiatrists and Nodal Officer for the ATF in J&K.
"Patients struggling with drug addiction will be provided with free treatment, food, awareness, identification, and counseling in these eight centers. With this J&K will have eleven specialised drug treatment centers," he said.
He said the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) AIIMS, New Delhi is the nodal agency for setting up Addiction Treatment Facilities (ATF) in J&K.
â€œUnder the scheme, NDDTC AIIMS New Delhi is supporting the setting up of ATFs in 125 districts of India. In J&K, the ministry has allocated permission for 10 such centers, eight of which have received the letter of approval (LoA) from AIIMS,â€ he said.
Two more centers, a senior health official said, are in the process of receiving the approval. The scheme is a fully-funded one and has provision for manpower, infrastructure and drugs required for setting up de-addiction centers.
The UT will be required to allocate requisite space within a healthcare facility for the center. The details procured from the health and medical education department reveal that the approved centers are located at Government Medical College Anantnag, GMC Doda, GMC Rajouri, District Hospital Pulwama, DH Budgam and DH Bandipora.
A senior health official said that approval for ATF at DH Shopian and Kulgam was awaited although a letter of interest had been submitted to AIIMS. These centers will only have outpatient facilities, the approval letters state.
The letter follows the expression of interest by 10 Government hospitals in J&K and feasibility analysis for setting these centers up by AIIMS, the process of which had begun in July 2020, reveals the communications.
The centers, as per the ministry, are meant to â€œenhance the avenues for treatment of substance use disorders (â€™addictionsâ€™) in the country.â€
J&K has been struggling with the issue of substance abuse among youth. As per statistics from the Kashmir division, heroin abuse has increased manifold over the past four years, reaching alarming levels in 2020.
Dr Hussain said the drug de-addiction policy has recommended the setting up of such integrated drug de-addiction centers in all districts of J&K to fight the menace of substance abuse.
The policy provides a framework for interventions for reducing the prevalence of substance abuse. The sanction to the policy was seen as the first step for its effective implementation in the long journey towards freeing J&K from a vicious cycle of drugs.
As per the policy, substance abuse should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal offense.
It calls for treatment of abuse in the geographical premises of a healthcare institute rather than a separate set-up so that the message is put across boldly that drug addiction is one of the problems that are provided treatment in healthcare ambit just like other diseases.