"THE greatest help I received from the center is it brought me closer to God, it helped me realize that God really cares for me," Karla (not her real name), a former resident of the Davao City Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Drug Dependents (DCTRCDD) in Bago Oshiro, Tugbok District Davao City, said in the vernacular.
Unknown to many, there stands one of the institutions that has made Davao City well known for: its drive against illegal drugs. And no, the addicts are not disposed with as the enemies of the Administration would want the world to believe. They are rehabilitated in the best way possible - being a second lease in life with greater hope and chances of making a better one.
The process starts with not tagging them as patients nor clients, but residents.
The drug center was established in 1985 but it was yet under the national government, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, according to its website. It was only turned over to the city government in year 2001.
DCTRCDD used to cater to upto 200 drug dependents, its center manager Dr. Gene Gulanes, said. But the "brain drain" phenomenon, where our professionals seek better employment elsewhere downsized its patient-handling capacity, which is decided by the Department of Health as it is the facility's accreditor, to 100.
As of September 25, the center has only 75 residents where 64 are males and 11 are females not for lack of those that require help, but because these are those who have voluntarily sought professional help from government.
The willingness to be treated is a requirement, both from the addicted and the family.
Dr. Gulanes laments that families of addicted usually seek help for their member only when the addicted is already severely mentally ill or have gone crazy. The rehab is not a home for crazy people, he said. What these people need is a mental hospital not a rehabilitation center.
Those who pass for rehabilitation stay there for six months to two years, depending on the severity of their addiction and the acceptance mechanism of the drug addicts.
Dr. Gulanes said that the DOH's ideal ratio of staff to residents is 1:50 where one professional should take care of the 50 residents.
The center employs professional nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers. It also employs house stewards who act like brothers/sisters or mothers/fathers to the residents, aside from other needed personnel, like cooks and guards.
Throughout its history, the center has catered to different age range of drug addicts, from as young as 9 years old (addicted to Vulca Seal, rugby and gasoline) to as senior as 64 years old.
Dr. Gulanes said most of the residents come from poblacion areas, specifically around the area of Quezon Boulevard (that includes Bucana). Then it's followed by Talomo, Buhangin and Agdao. These areas are the city’s most populated and has the most number of inner city settlements.
But not all of the residents are Dabawenyos. Some of them came all the way from Soccsksargen, Caraga Region, and even Zamboanga area.
Milagros Basmayor, DCTRCDD social services section head, said that the city's drug TRC (treatment and rehabilitation center) is not the 1st in Davao Region. There's already the Luntiang Paraiso in New Corella in Compostela Valley Province. But the city's drug TRC is more preferred by families of the addicted because of word of mouth coming straight from the "reformed," or the former drug addicts themselves.
But, given the fact that it is a center run by the city, they prioritize city residents.
Treatment and rehabilitation is socialized where the capacity of the prospective resident’s family to pay is assessed. Still, it’s way below what private institutions charge
The range of payment is from free or P0.00 to P5,000 a month for the city residents. Those from outside Davao City will have to pay P10,000 per month on a cost-sharing scheme.
Basmayor said that the cost-sharing scheme only started in January of this year to place a sense of ownership and responsibility among the residents and their families while ensuring that they get the best treatment available.
Perla Redulosa, the center's assistant manager, said the city's drug TRC has become a model to all other TRCs in Mindanao. In fact, the center's manager is frequently "borrowed" by other LGUs to be their resource speaker and to assist them in building their own drug TRC. This is specifically because the city has invested so much on its drug TRC that it sent Dr. Gulanes for immersion to other places, like the US, paid for by the Davao City government. This is aside from seminars and workshops he attended courtesy of the Department of Health. Thus, in terms of know-hows in drug TRC, Dr. Gulanes is an expert.
Redulosa added that the center utilizes a holistic approach for the drug dependents, including their spiritual, emotional, physical and mental.
The center has a structural schedule daily for the residents starting from 4:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The activity ranges from bed making, physical exercise, proper hygiene (since many of the addicted no longer take a bath regularly nor give regard to hygiene), prayer, cooking, lecture, seminars and workshops and talks, where part of the activity is to let the residents talk and let them explore their feelings towards their selves, or anyone who they think is responsible for them being in the center.
One of the social workers’ roles is to impart on the residents their full control over their lives; that no one caused them to be there except themselves. In this way, they will learn to accept their responsibility toward their rehabilitation because only in acceptance can they start to be treated.
The center also observes celebrations. Just last week, the residents held a debate with a theme money vs complete family as part of their Family Week celebration.
Dr. Gulanes admitted that not all who are brought to the center "recover" completely. He said 20 percent of the residents return to the center after picking up the vice again when returned to their communities.
The recovery period is one of the most challenging for drug addicts. During this period, they are to report at the DOH for their "aftercare" aside from reporting also to their community social worker for 18 months. This is where their barangay will and should be involved through its BADAC or the barangay anti-drug abuse council to monitor the recovering drug dependents.
He is just glad that the Archdiocese of Davao led by Archbishop Romulo Valles is spearheading a program called "Sagop Kinabuhi" where they go from community to community to support the recovering drug addicts. This program provides interventions, including spiritual, social, medical and partly providing livelihood, for the recovering drug addicts so that they will become productive, thus preventing them from going back to their bad habits.
At present, Karla, after going through treatment and rehabilitation from the center for six months and recovering process for 18 months, she is now part of the center's staff as house steward. She's been working at the center for seven years now.
"Mao lang ni akong maikabayad sa Ginoo sa tanan nga Iyang nabuhat kanako, karon ako na pud ang mutabang sa mga adik aron sila mabag-o ug makit-an ang Ginoo (This is all I can do to repay God for all the things He has done for me. Now, I will be the one who will help the addicted for them to turn a new leaf and find God)," Karla ended.
Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on October 02, 2017.
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