PICS: Addicts kicked out of centre after escaping to air their grievances

Kimberley – A group of about 14 recovering drug addicts, who “escaped” from the Northern Cape Substance Abuse Treatment Centre in Kimberley to raise their “grievances”, found themselves kicked out of the rehabilitation programme on Wednesday.

“When we entered the facility voluntarily about a month ago we didn’t expect our rights to be stripped from us. We also thought that when we signed up for the three-month programme we were going to find a lasting solution to our drug addiction problem, which would make not only a difference in our lives but also that of our families and the community at large,” one of the affected service users said on Thursday.

Another said that this was his last chance to turn his life around. “Yes, I am a criminal, but when I stood in court the last time I realised it was drugs that got me into trouble each and every time. It was now or never. I then told the court to give me one last chance, which they did. I have a girlfriend and four children who are looking at me to provide for them and be a role model. However, when I entered the facility I had certain expectations which were not met,” the man from Springbok said.

He added that he was made to believe that he would be rehabilitated and learn new skills.

“I’m going into my second month now and we haven’t been taught anything. I was under the impression that I would be able to equip myself with skills which would not only provide me with an income, but also to keep me away from drugs.”

One of the other grievances they raised was that 14 people had to share two toilets and one shower.

The group also complained about smoke breaks. “We requested that we be allowed two more additional smoke breaks – one after our snack and one before bed,” they said.

The group also demanded that they be allowed more phone calls. “We feel we are being isolated here. There are times when we just want to speak to our families as they are the ones encouraging and supporting us.”

They also wanted access to more visits. “On Sunday last week my family came to see me but they were turned away at the gate. This is also not the first time.”

The service users also claim that the staff are not qualified for the positions they fill. “There are two social workers we know of who have qualifications. The care workers don’t know what they are doing and the manager of the centre just simply ignores us and then goes on leave without addressing our issues.”

They further claim that they have followed the correct procedures by first verbally raising their grievances, followed by written correspondence. “What more do we have to do to get our voices heard? This is the reason why we left the facility without permission.”

This move seems to have backfired on them as they were in contravention of the agreement they signed when they entered the facility, according to Gamiem Abrahams, the spokesperson for the Department of Social Development.

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Picture: Danie van der Lith/African News Agency (ANA)

“When they were accepted into the facility they agreed to follow certain protocols, procedures and abide by the rules. This rogue element has now put the rehabilitation of the other service members at risk. We can’t allow this element to jeopardise those who really want the help,” Abrahams said.

He explained that when service users entered the facility, the first week involved detoxing. “We leave them during this process. After this process has been completed they are evaluated by doctors and psychologists.”

Only once they have been evaluated, Abrahams said, does the education part of the programme start. “We teach them life skills, how to interact socially and then in the last month of the 12-week programme we provide them with vocational training.”

During this period, he explained, the centre brings in qualified artisans such as hairdressers, welders, etc to assist with the vocational training.

“This rogue group wanted all this from the minute they stepped in the door. With any rehabilitation programme you have to follow the protocol otherwise there is no chance of healing,” said Abrahams.

He added that those service users who had “escaped” were put out of the programme and the court-ordered member was handed over to the police. “He broke his probation. He now has to deal with his probation officer and any decision made now is out of our hands.”

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