DSD appeals to the public to use registered substance abuse treatment facilities | Western Cape Government

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DSD appeals to the public to use registered substance abuse treatment facilities

17 November 2021

The Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD) has received distressing reports of a murder at an illegal substance abuse rehabilitation centre operating out of a residence in Ruyterwacht, Cape Town. There have also been allegations of torture and abuse of patients at the residence. The SAPS has made a number of arrests and removed all patients from the site back to their families. I condemn the actions of those responsible, and call on the SAPS and Prosecuting Authority to ensure that they are not allowed to intimidate or have any contact with their victims while the prosecution is underway.

Whilst sharing a space or living with an individual in active addiction can be challenging, we are appealing to citizens to please ensure that your loved one(s) sign up for treatment at a registered facility when needing help with a substance use disorder (SUD).

Why is it important to seek help from registered facilities?

Registered treatment programmes have been vetted by several government organisations such as the Municipality, Department of Health and Social Development to provide the client with the necessary levels of care.

With inpatient facilities, also known as rehabs, it is especially important to choose a registered facility because this means that they have appropriate treatment plans and the correct staff establishment made up of social workers and a range of medical professionals including nurses, psychologists, etc. 

Operating an unregistered rehab is illegal. The problem with illegal rehabs is that they may not comply with the prescribed norms and standards which includes having the right qualified professionals providing recognised structured treatment programmes. They may not implement recognized treatment protocols.

When people go to unregistered facilities, they should be aware that they run the risk of being swindled out of money. Some places will encourage longer stays at the facility than initially agreed upon, which means more fees payable to the facility. This does not always translate into benefit to the client. There is no specific standard that prescribes an amount payable for treatment in South Africa. This could lend itself to a misrepresentation of costs. Families sometimes make short-term loans to pay for expensive treatment, just to receive a “short-term fix” to a desperate situation.

Clients further face the risk of having their rights violated and sustaining injuries. The Department has received complaints about clients being abused and kidnapped by operators of illegal substance treatment organisations. The normal methods utilised within the behaviour management system does not include abuse. Examples of abuse includes physical punishment such as:

  • physical beatings,
  • isolation for extended periods of time,
  • standing in water for many hours,
  • allowing fellow clients to physically abuse one another,
  • shaving one’s hair; and
  • hard labour.

Other forms of abuse include sexual and emotional abuse, such as degrading the client in front of others and withholding their medication.

Some illegal treatment centres implement a “pick up service” which implies that the client is kidnapped and kept against their will. He or she will be subjected to physical abuse until there is a submission to the continuation of the residential treatment.

Another way kidnapping is manifested is after the client has voluntarily admitted themselves and later expresses the desire to leave the establishment, but is held against their will, without a court order.

Lastly one should always be aware that there is a risk of unregistered rehabs employing untrained staff, that there is a lack of expertise, or minimal resources to deal with crises and/or complications associated with addiction. Example heroin withdrawal which can be fatal if not correctly facilitated and monitored.

How can people be sure that they are using a registered rehab?

A certificate should be displayed at the registered facility or service. An NPO registration certificate issued by National DSD should not be confused with the substance abuse treatment centre registration certificate which is issued by the provincial Department of Social Development and is valid only for five years. Clients should always check the date of issue on the certificate which should be clearly visible. The certificate will also indicate the maximum number of clients that the facility is allowed to accommodate. If it is not displayed, you have the right to ask to see it before signing any agreements.

Finding the right help:

If you or someone you care about has a substance use disorder or if you feel that you can’t cope with the symptoms of substance abuse at school or at home, getting help is the first step.

The treatment of a SUD is a process, and ongoing support is provided throughout a programme.

For more information on how to get the right help call 0800 220 250,  or visit our local offices at the Department of Social Development or visit www.westerncape.gov.za/substance-abuse.

Media Enquiries: 

Joshua Covenant Chigome

Spokesperson for the Minister of Social Development, Minister Sharna Fernandez

Email: Joshua.chigome@westerncape.gov.za­