‘Substance abusers being overlooked’

Nehemiah Call Initiative NGO and stakeholders met to speak about interventions needed for people living on streets who are abusing substances. Picture from left are Mastura Salasa-Schaffers, field social worker within the Mitchell’s district at Cape Mental Health NGO, Claudia Cogill, field social worker at Cape Mental Health, Lynn Phillips, Cape Flats Safety Forum secretary, René Daniels, clinic social worker and Dean Ramjoomia founder of Nehemiah Call Initiative.

A Mitchell’s Plain non-profit organisation wants more holistic interventions for people living on the streets when it comes to substance abuse.

The founder of the Nehemiah Call Initiative (NCI), Dean Ramjoomia, told the Plainsman on Monday August 14, one of the biggest issues that plague people living on the street is the misuse of drugs and alcohol.

“For many this had become a way of coping with deeper underlying issues,” he said.

Not only are people living on streets affected by drugs, but there is a root cause of their misuse of drugs such as trauma, being victims of sexual and domestic abuse, fatherlessness and poverty, which are often disregarded.

The NCI hosted a Mitchell’s Plain substance misuse indaba in Beacon Valley, on Wednesday August 2.

It focused on the impact of those living on the streets misusing substances, how their realities on the street impact their environment, the impact of mental health, health, patient services and faith-based intervention, the impact of societal dysfunction and the effect on policing and the justice system on them, (“Plight of ’Plain street people in spotlight”, Plainsman, August 17).

Those in attendance have agreed they will establish a focused task team around the issues of substance abuse. They will be meeting on Thursday October 5.

“There are multiple reasons that cause adults, youth and children to leave their homes and live on the street. Rather sad to say that in certain circumstances and situations the streets become a refuge,” he said.

“In all the work and partnership we are involved with, we acknowledge that the response from Law Enforcement and the City is ineffective and unsustainable, as there are no provisions made for programmes designed to address root issues, shelter placements are a very short sighted solution,” said Mr Ramjoomia.

“Many in society are attending only to symptomatic issues. Substance abusers are being overlooked. The choices made affects how one operates in society. The literature does not speak to the person you are trying to reach. Comprehensive collaborations are not happening as it should,” said Mr Ramjoomia.

“How costly and expensive it has become to run a privately-owned rehabilitation centre. It has an impact on effective long-term rehabilitation intervention on both out-patients and in-patient facilities,” he said.

Those who attended were from Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre, Stikland Hospital, Social Services, SAPS, Cape Mental Health, NGOs, faith-based organisations and social workers, to name a few.

The group acknowledged the impact of relapse in all services including faith-based restoration facilities, said Mr Ramjoomia.

The Provincial Substance Misuse services, Mitchell’s Plain Magistrate’s Court, Cape Drug Counselling Centre and two in-patient treatment facilities in Mitchell’s Plain were invited but didn’t attend.

They did not respond by the time we went to print.

“I’ve worked with many clients who misuse heroin and 24 of them died across Mitchell’s Plain in the past nine months displaying the same symptoms, such as dehydration and kidney failure to name a few,” he said.

René Daniels, social worker at Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre, said the resource list, NGOs and court services need to be made available and simplified to the community. “We need continuous after-care for this cause.”

“If you don’t have employment after rehabilitation, the risk of having a relapse is greater. Skills development and employment to those who have addiction – a focus of this is needed. They should feel included in society and know they can contribute to the community and live through the stigma of an addict,” she said.

Bradley Johannessen, Five Fold Foundation founder, said at the meeting that one of the focuses in combating the issue of substance misuse is family restoration. He said fathers are not taking their rightful place in the family and this is where the dysfunction comes in.

“We continue to help young boys and girls through mentorship programmes and also our young fathers who grew up without a positive father role model.

“They must become positive role models in the community. There is a lot of work to be done. This was just the beginning of a conversation that needs to continue in order to find solutions,” he said.

Registered nurse at Stikland Hospital, working in the Opiate detox unit, Cassandre Sampson-Rhode said there is a lot to be done in the community especially surrounding the role of parents.

“The use of drugs is infested in families. Other organisations should also help and step up to eradicate this issue.”

Lynn Phillips, Cape Flats Safety Forum secretary, said the number of heroin users is growing. “SAPS are also targeting users and not drug dealers. There should be an initiative of a multi-disciplinary task team to help users get counselling and treatment so that they can make informed decisions.”

Those in attendance have agreed they will establish a focused task team around the issues of substance abuse and its impact on various services. They will be meeting on Thursday October 5.

For more information contact Mr Ramjoomia on 065 307 1983.