Western Cape Government's Substance Abuse Strategy: One Year on
Media Statement by Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape
Last May, I launched the Western Cape Government's strategy to reduce drug- and alcohol-related harms in the Province. We launched this strategy because we realised that our initiatives to reduce crime, provide better schooling and health care and create jobs through economic growth would be hampered by the social damage done by drug and alcohol abuse.
Today, I am pleased to announce some of our government's achievements since this launch. However, ongoing interpersonal violence related to binge drinking, the recent increases in gang violence, sharp increases in the number of young people entering our psychiatric facilities with drug-related mental health disorders, and the results of drug testing at schools following the implementation of our new Western Cape Education Laws have also highlighted the need for further measures to be introduced.
These are some of the initiatives we have successfully introduced and implemented since we launched the plan just over a year ago:
- The Western Cape Substance Abuse Forum has been re-established and represents stakeholders from the provincial government, the City of Cape Town, as well as the criminal justice sector.
- The Provincial Department of Social Development's budget to address harmful alcohol and drug use has increased by 50% from R42.1 million in 2008/2009 to R67.4 million in the current financial year.
- The number of subsidised spaces in drug treatment programmes has increased from 3 700 spaces for 2009/2010 to nearly 5 000 for the current financial year.
- The number of treatment programmes funded by the Department of Social Development has increased fourfold, from six (in 2009/2010) to 24. Among these is the Province's first stand-alone residential programme for children and adolescents, and the country's first out-patient Matrix programme for children and adolescents.
- The number of patients receiving aftercare and recovery services once they have left treatment has increased from 500 (in 2009/2010) to 2 460.
- The Province has entered a partnership with the three universities to offer postgraduate courses in drug and alcohol treatment intervention services at UCT (PGDip in Dept of Psychiatry and BAHons in Dept of Social Work) and Stellenbosch University (PGDip in Dept Psychiatry), and undergraduate courses at UWC (in the School of Public Health); this year, approximately 60 students have enrolled in these courses.
- The Western Cape provincial legislature passed the Provincial Education Act at the end of last year, which empowers schools to introduce drug testing on a "reasonable suspicion" basis and staff members at 50 high-risk schools have been trained to administer this testing while staff members at another 50 schools are receiving training this year.
- The Western Cape provincial legislature passed the Provincial Liquor Act, the regulations for the Act have been through public participation and are now completed. The implementation plan for this Act will come before Cabinet by the end of August, which will provide the way forward for the establishment of a new Provincial Liquor Authority and the exact timeframes for the Act to be rolled out incrementally.
- This will enable us to tighten up regulation of liquor supply. Reduced liquor supply has been shown to reduce binge drinking and reduce alcohol-related violence. We will be requiring very tight policing of the Act from the SAPS, with R1 million fines for companies that supply liquor to unlicensed outlets.
- A six-part television series has been completed by the Department of Health, which offers education on alcohol-related harms and the risks of binge drinking. This series will be aired on television shortly.
- A geographic directory of substance abuse treatment and intervention services in each district of the Province has been completed for distribution to all schools, social workers, NGOs, clinics, magistrates, prosecutors and police stations.
- A drug and alcohol information website will be launched in the next month, which will serve the general public and will be available through the Cape Gateway website.
These initiatives will contribute to alleviating the harms associated with drug and alcohol abuse such as mental and physical illness, violence, theft, criminal cases, risky sexual behaviour, vehicle accidents, which together cost the state in the region of R6 billion per year.
2. Results of Recent Drug Testing at a Local Primary School
However, a case study of drug testing at a primary school in the South Peninsula, following the new prescripts of the Western Cape Education Act, has highlighted that we face a massive task. Last week, a Grade 9 class teacher at the school noticed signs of substance abuse amongst learners and, as a result, 15 learners were tested for substance abuse at the end of July. All 15 tested positive. However, this number increased to over 40 when learners, who after realising they could also be tested, voluntarily admitted to using drugs. This was the first mass testing to take place in a school in the Province and the outcome was that close to 50% of the grade, all around 14 years of age, were using drugs.
It is clear from this case that we urgently need to step up intervention and treatment programmes that target young people so that we can treat children abusing alcohol and drugs early in their lives. In this way, we can give them a chance to recover, carry on with their education and psychological development, and become healthy, responsible adults. However, in order to do this, it is crucial that we adopt a coordinated approach, where our provincial government works in close partnership with schools and parents. Our Department of Social Development will be able to advise and assist principals, teachers and parents who wish to test learners, so as to ensure that the learners and their families receive appropriate follow-up services.
We applaud the principal at this school for taking the initiative to test learners who were showing signs of using drugs. More importantly, parents of all learners who tested positive for drugs were informed accordingly so that they can also intervene in the risky behaviour of their children.
This week the Provincial Department of Education will be sending a letter to every principal providing guidelines on how to implement drug testing at schools and also providing them with the details of who to contact in the Provincial Department of Social Development beforehand for assistance and to check availability of support services.
Our substance abuse strategy has introduced initiatives aimed at curbing drug and alcohol abuse and providing people - especially young people - the opportunities and the means to succeed in life. However, in order to bring lasting positive change, we need parents and their children to use these opportunities and take responsibility for their lives.
3. The Way Forward
In light of the challenges that remain, our strategy will include the following further steps over the next few years:
- Offering new drug education materials for School Life Orientation, starting with a roll-out for Grade 11 next year, and Grades 5 and 7 in the years following.
- Placing a greater emphasis on identifying young people who are using drugs as early as possible, and ensuring they receive appropriate and professional psychosocial interventions. This will include the introduction, through our training partnership with the universities, of specialised training for professionals to work with children and adolescents with drug and alcohol problems. Currently there is a severe shortage of people with specialised skills to do psychosocial work with children and adolescents in general. There are even fewer with the additional skills needed to treat drug problems.
- Continuing to strengthen and expand programmes for drug and alcohol treatment and interventions, with a particular focus on providing brief counselling interventions for binge drinkers arrested or admitted to trauma wards with injuries.
- Introducing comprehensive preventative measures for risky behavior, such as extended after-school activities for young people across the Province to increase adult supervision, and involving families in these programmes in areas with high incidences of youth risk behaviour. Currently we have 170 after-school centres running across the Province under the auspices of DCAS. This is to be expanded next year, and nutrition programmes and life skills programmes will be phased in at the centres.
- Facilitating the establishment of safer drinking environments, with area lighting, pedestrian routes and transport partnerships, where possible in formal business nodes with CCID support