By Yusufu S. Bangura
The Care Manager at the Kissy Psychiatric Teaching Hospital, Doctor Abdul Jalloh, has noted that the issue of youth intoxicating themselves with ‘Kush’ is not a criminal justice problem, but rather health and social related problems that need to be addressed holistically.
Dr. Jalloh made the above statement on Friday 15th September, during the launch of the Inter-Agency Government Quick Action on Substance Abuse at the Ministry of Social Welfare conference room, New England Ville in Freetown.
“Kush as everyone knows is not a criminal justice problem, but rather health and social related problems that need to be addressed holistically whilst maintaining the dignity and human rights of affected individuals and population. We look forward to represent our views and transformative solutions in this process,” he said.
He said the role of the ministry of health in terms of addressing drug issue is basically on drug demand reduction, but however, they have been coordinating with different agencies since 2018 to address the issue.
While highlighting some of their achievements, he said they have trained 25 specialists across all MDAs and CSOs and refurbished a building at the Psychiatric Teaching Hospital for drug treatment and rehabilitation.
He thanked the Ministry of Social Welfare for working with them in ensuring they render service to persons using drug.
He cited the strong coordination between drug misuse and mental health in general as both of them can complement each other.
He added that the effect and impact of drug misuse cannot be overemphasised as everyone knows and has seen the impact it has created in the youth, that’s why the government thought it fit to activate the taskforce for them to tackle drug abuse.
He said substance abuse and mental health are serious complex issues with social implications that require immediate strategic and professional actions and attention by everyone in the country, to foster the transformative change and improve the quality of life, self-esteem and productive of victims across all ages, especially youth and children including women and girls.
In line with some of the concerns, he said they needed adequate support and therapeutic measures to be part of the thematic areas to mitigate the issues, so that it does not progress to something else and will also help to sustain the peace that everyone is enjoying now.
“As we embark on this journey, it critical to propose evidence based therapeutic measures in line with medical, psychological and social ethics, and principles for treatment in opposition to the current law enforcement agencies in order to tackle these such as criminal justice issue,” he said.
Launching the Inter-Agency Government Quick Action on Substance Abuse, Minister of Social Welfare, Melrose Karminty said drug and substance abuse is something the nation has been battling with, stating that President Bio is not pleased with what is going on in the country and that he has shown a lot of concerns to address the issue.
She maintained that President Bio has directed them to bring everyone onboard because everyone has a role to play in the fight against drug abuse, adding that if the issue of drug is not tackled it will affect the whole nation.
“President Bio will continue to show concern about the proliferation and consumption of these dangerous substances in our communities and he has affirmed that if the situation continues, it has the potential of undermining the gains they have made over the years. It also has the propensity to undermine the big five changers because we need the youths to work on the big five, so if our able dynamic youths are not productive, they will not achieve the ‘Feed Salone’ program. We need to take emergency action to amend these issues,” she said.
Minister Karminty said they want to give meaningful life to victims after they have been treated, therefore she is working with the law enforcement agencies to identify victims of substance abuse and institute remedies to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into their respective communities.
She concluded that the ministry has 140 social workers across the county that would be providing psychosocial counselling and have trained 30 workers to do need assessment where the inmates are held in correctional centres.
“I am pleased to inform you that the government has shown strong commitment and ready to commit some resources into this fight. On this note, I will like to call on our development partners, international non-governmental organisations and the private sector to join government to end drug and substance abuse because it a fight no one can underestimate,” she called.
The launching was attracted by government officials from ministries and agencies, where they also made their commitments to working with the ministry of social welfare to address the issue of drug. They also visit both male and female correctional centres.