Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez visited two of the organisations that are funded through her budget on Tuesday February 18.
First stop was the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre in Eastridge, where she spoke to clients and family members about the department’s plan to focus attention on substance abuse, which she described as one of her key responsibilities as MEC.
Ms Fernandez also expressed her empathy for the hard times parents were experiencing, sharing her own experience of her only son having been trapped in addiction for a long period.
One of the fathers at the centre asked if the department could help address the issue of children not going to school. This, he said, made them vulnerable to gangs and drug use. Ms Fernandez responded that truancy was a “real problem”, which the department was focusing on.
The team from the MEC’s office included her spokesperson Joshua Chigome, chairperson of the Western Cape Substance Abuse Forum Chantelle Pepper and her assistant, Anzil Lawrence and the MEC’s son Dominique Fernandez who also had the opportunity to share his story.
The panel addressing the group also included the director of the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre Ashley Potts as well as branch manager and senior social worker, Hazel Hess.
Ms Hess said it was a challenge for families to understand the process of treatment. “It becomes a family illness and needs to include the entire family to ensure proper support when the user enters clean time and moves towards recovery,” she said.
Mr Potts said the centre offered a half-day education workshop especially for family members of users every first Wednesday of the month.
Ms Fernandez also visited the seniors’ club at the centre, encouraging them to continue meeting the way they do to be of support to one another.
At Sultan Bahu Centre in Westridge, she was introduced to the head of treatment services, Shuaib Husain and the director Shafiek Davids. Sultan Bahu is the only centre registered to provide the department-funded Opioid Substitution Therapy programme at no cost to the user, said Mr Potts.
The delegation was introduced to two groups being run by the centre and Dominique spoke to the users whom he urged to never give up, to hold onto the hope and seek guidance from the centre and to always place their hope in God.
Ms Fernandez said she would commit herself to support the cause as best she could during her term and emphasised the need to increase awareness around the outpatient services which allowed for daily management of the users’ triggers.
Anyone needing help can contact the department’s drug helpline on 0800 220 250 or any of the two centres on the following numbers – Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre on 021 397 0103 / 04 and the Sultan Bahu on 021 372 2945.