Wed | Oct 4, 2023

NGO urges Gov’t to pump more resources into Drug Treatment Court

Published:Thursday | December 15, 2022 | 1:19 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter

Steve Ashley, chairman of the Association of Friends and Families of Substance Abusers (AFAFOSA), has argued that inadequate funding for the court mandated to treat drug addicts is contributing to the country’s crime rate.

Ashley told The Gleaner that although his non-profit organisation, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, has provided a lot of financial support to the Drug Treatment Court (DTC) over the years, much more could be done with better input from the Government.

“It is very important because a lot of the crimes committed in this country are by people on drugs because the drugs empower them to do these things. It is not something that we can solve, but we can mitigate it,” he said.

But Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has challenged the claim, telling The Gleaner that the DTC is not underfunded.

“It’s not so much that there is a shortage of resources. There is a shortage of support from the psychiatrists because there are not enough psychiatrists working with the Ministry of Health who are available to be posted or to deal with the matters coming from the drug court,” he said.

The minister lauded the “enormous” success of the DTC, noting that “most persons who have been referred by the parish court judges to the programme have successfully completed the programme”.

He said that his ministry has been having dialogue with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and consultant psychiatrists to address the issue.

Ashley, who was a speaker at a luncheon hosted for 20 clients and their families at the Clover Thompson-Gordon Counselling Centre at the Maxfield Park Health Centre on Wednesday, stated that Jamaica’s drug addiction problem is “cultural”.

He noted that his organisation’s mission is to assist addicts with rehabilitation to prevent them from becoming a further burden to society.

Ashley said that five years ago, the association built a counselling centre at the Princess Margaret Hospital in St Thomas to complement the one it has at Maxfield Park. He said the organisation is aiming to build one in each parish to tackle drug abuse.

The AFAFOSA chairman said that the families of drug addicts are often victimised and called on the Government to provide more support to them.

“Once they get into drug abuse, they steal from the family, they fight their family members, and they (relatives) suffer the most,” he said.

“Slowed down” drinking

Recovering alcoholic Daniel* spent a week in jail after he got into a fight with his sister and destroyed her fan while drunk. The 50-year-old Olympic Gardens resident said he has since “slowed down” his drinking after being part of the Drug Treatment Court programme for the last five months.

Telling The Gleaner that the excessive drinking has negatively impacted his business, Dave said he is determined to stop.

“I’m even thinking about moving out of my circle right now because di circle weh deh round mi, mi need a change. Sometimes di community, the people weh mi spend mi time round, dem stigmatise and come down on me, calling mi a drunkard. Mi just need fi change miself,” he said.

Meanwhile, 38-year-old recovering marijuana addict Javon*, who has been in and out of jail because of drug abuse, said he was exposed to the drug when he was eight years old, often smoking the butt of spliffs discarded by older relatives.

Later, he also became an alcoholic, and his last stint in jail resulted from a drunken brawl, which ended with him stealing from someone who he said owed him money.

Javon has been part of the DTC programme for a year and a half. He said that quitting his smoking addiction “rough”, but he is trying to do it for his three children.

“More than half a mi life mi a smoke,” he said. “Mi have three youth and mi haffi consider ‘bout dem ting deh … . Mi have mi youth dem and ting, so through the programme and even by reasoning with the probation officer, ... mi see wah gwaan and mi woulda like fi stop,” he said.

*Names changed.