Patricia de Lille, the Western Cape Minister for Social Development says she is 'extremely concerned' about the findings of a recent survey into drug use amongst Mitchell's Plain youth.
The study found that Mitchell's Plain has a considerably higher rate of substance abuse than the national and international averages:
- 9% of Mitchell's Plain teens have used tik at one time or another;
- One in 20 had used tik in the previous 12 months;
- Drug abuse amongst teenagers was connected to the use of drugs by others in the household, attempted suicide, high-risk sexual behaviour and carrying a knife.
"Dr Ali Hamdulay recently sent us the findings of his research, which will certainly help us to continuously update the targeting of our services where they are needed most," MEC De Lille says.
"In fact, we are currently conducting similar research in every community in the Province through a survey of 23 000 youth and we are expecting to have the results in July this year. It is crucial that drug and alcohol policy is guided by proper research."
The Minister says substance abuse is one of her Department's top 3 priorities.
"We have increased funding to drug prevention, treatment and other programmes in Mitchell's Plain and other areas of the Province that have high rates of drug and alcohol-related harms. In the past year we have opened three new drug treatment programmes, including a new in-patient programme specifically for the youth," says De Lille.
"The Department has also expanded the number of spaces in treatment programmes significantly, from 3 700 in 2008 to nearly 5 000 this year. We also fund a number of NGO partners in Mitchell's Plain, including Sultan Bahu, SANCA and Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre. This year we have also, for the first time, introduced after-care and follow-up services for all people who attend subsidised treatment".
"Meanwhile, the Legislature passed new legislation that allows principals and teachers to do drug testing at schools. Since last year, the Department of Education has been training teachers and principals at its high risk schools in the implementation the new legislation, including the application of drug tests."
"Where learners test positive, the Education Department works in partnership with Social Development to provide the necessary assistance, which can include referral to drug treatment, if necessary," De Lille says.
"The Provincial Parliament also recently passed the new Liquor Act, which, among other things, bans all liquor from school premises. In the longer term, the Provincial Government is restructuring the Department of Social Development to align its social work teams with School Circuits, so that social workers are more available to schools to assist with these challenges."