November 22, 2017
The Department of Health (DOH) took the lead in the Mindanao-wide Summit on the prevention and control of illegal drugs held last Monday, November 20 in Davao City.
In the Philippines, intelligence reports suggest that it has as many as 4 million drug dependents and that up to 2% of them will need support in terms of rehabilitation so that they can be reintegrated back to the society.  
“In support of the President’s war against drugs, we started establishing drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation centers (DATRCs) in every region of the country to accommodate more of our drug abuse victims in the government’s rehabilitation program,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said. 
The health chief also stressed that the national government follows a unified, comprehensive and balanced approach in the fight against illegal drugs with efforts not only focused on the supply side of the equation with regulatory and enforcement controls such as going after illegal drug pushers and punishing the drug traffickers. 
The DOH sits as a member of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) where it is addressing the demand side through programs that reach out to drug users and would-be drug users by conducting public education and prevention campaigns as well as providing counseling and treatment to reintegrate the drug users to their communities.
“As in many other countries, drug addiction is also an important public health issue because it acts as a barrier in the effective prevention and control of other diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other pathogens which spread because of injecting drug use (IDU).  Failure to effectively conquer illegal drugs will also hamper efforts to halt major diseases that also pose a significant toll in the country,” said Secretary Duque.
The health chief gave an update on the DOH efforts to expand access to drug rehabilitation centers nationwide. The Chinese government donated funds for the establishment of two regional DATRCs for SoCCSKSarGen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani, plus General Santos City).and Caraga regions. The project concept design, “Windows of Hope,” depicts the goal of DOH program to give new life to the victims of drug addiction and provide hope for their restoration to their homes and communities.
With the current revitalized reform agenda which is the Fourmula One for Health Plus, the agency now aims to boost Universal Health Care and further expand access and improve the quality of the treatment and rehabilitation services in the whole country. Its services will soon include treatment of substance use disorders such as alcohol and nicotine addiction. Likewise, harm reduction programs to prevent and control the spread of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and C will be included.
DATRCs shall also be developed as one-stop shops with services for substance use disorder and the management of co-morbidities and psychiatric conditions. Thus, regional hubs are envisioned to offer patients holistic rehabilitation from treatment to recovery, after-care and relapse prevention with maximum family involvement.
Other partners have also added to the national government’s efforts in expanding medical assistance and rehabilitation to other parts of the country. Aside from these donations, DOH has allotted funds for the establishment of regional DATRCs in CAR and in Zamboanga City. Hence, out of the 17 regions, only regions 4B and ARMM do not have a regional DATRC yet.
Six selected sites are currently being piloted as community-based recovery facilities, with Tarlac as model clinic. Recovery halfway homes, focusing on job skills and trainings for recovering patients, will be opened. Standards are being developed for special populations who are also drug users such as the youth, our women, persons with disability and persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Community-based treatment and support at the primary care setting were developed and adopted by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) for harmonization with DILG, DSWD and other member agencies. Workforce shall be augmented given the influx of more drug dependents and appropriate training will be provided to Barangay Health Workers (BHW) and primary care physicians.
For health care financing, the DOH through PhilHealth was able to launch a P10,000 package for the treatment and detoxification for drug dependents.
With these ongoing plans and undertakings, it can be said that no bigger effort has been mounted in the fight against drugs such as today, with so many government and non-government agencies involved recognizing that drug addiction is a multifaceted problem that must be faced on many fronts.