Spotlight on substance abuse

Drug and alcohol issues were discussed by various role-players.

A call from the community for alcohol and drug abuse concerns to be addressed led to a meeting involving City officials and various organisations in Wynberg, on Friday, January 26.

In attendance were pastors, Mayoral committee member for community services and health, Patricia van der Ross’s community liaison officer Warren Harper, newly appointed Grassy Park police station commander Colonel Cleo Arnoldus, drug units and drug rehabilitation centre leaders who brainstormed ways to tackle the scourge of substance abuse.

A follow up meeting will be held at the Reconciliation Ministries, in Parkwood, on Friday February 9, from 10am to 1pm.

Pastor Eddie Hendricks of the Reconnect Youth Development, in Parkwood, said various people came together with a common purpose – to create awareness about drug abuse and work towards prevention.

Pastor Hendricks has been running the organisation for three years and said they work with suspended primary and high school children in the community and surrounds who were caught with drugs or alcohol.

During their suspension the pupils need to sign up for a drug rehabilitation programme. “We set up the programme for the children every Tuesday and their parents will also enrol for a parents’ support group session Tuesday evenings.”

Pastor Hendricks said they have already had 11 children enrolled since the start of the school term this year.

Reconnect Youth Development also provides a drug recovery home and safe house, as well as counselling with the parents’ permission.

Pastor Hendricks said the organisation had seen not only drug abuse, but also child rape, gangsterism and many other atrocities. “We need more drug awareness campaigns because they (drug addicts) lack knowledge of the full consequences of drug abuse.”

Parkwood community leader Pastor Paul Phillips said a collective effort is needed.

“Addressing the substance abuse challenges in our communities should and must be a collective, collaborative approach with strong focus on prevention. We need partnerships with all spheres of government, particularly on ward (grassroots) level. We need cohesive partnering between all relevant governmental departments. This initiative can be very effective in that the above factors are in play with already positive outcomes,” said pastor Phillips.

Community leader Keith Blake confidently addressed the meeting by saying that drug abuse can be tackled by putting in people, “the fear of God’s hell fire”.

Mr Blake suggested that the City of Cape produce a powerful awareness video showing the consequences of drug abuse; for the media to come on board; for there to be campaigns on social media and for murals to be put up.

Speaking to Southern Mail when contacted after the meeting, Ms Van Der Ross, agreed with Mr Blake about the suggestions he proposed on drug awareness.

“Three things we find that we (the City) can assist with: One, would be for posters to go up to identify what happens when you are on drugs, secondly, (producing) a short video, on why we should not use drugs which we can put out on social media and thirdly to get the Department of Arts and Culture, to maybe get local artists to come out to get murals up at local neighbourhood entrances where we will request permission from people to use their walls. We would have the murals painted with catchy phrases or even add the contact details of where the nearest matrix (substance abuse treatment) centre is.”

Ms Van der Ross said: “I look forward to this new leaf that we are taking on when it comes to drug abuse and being more hands on because our kids are suffering so we need to obviously try to put in more preventative measures. And very importantly is doing a collaboration effort with the local government, SAPS and neighbourhood watches to work together.”

When asked how the police will tackle the drug scourge, Lieutenant Colonel Arnoldus said: “The goal is to reduce the demand (for drugs) through crime prevention operations, having multi-sectoral operations and the community needs to play there part as SAPS will continue with their crime prevention operations and social crime prevention awareness campaigns.

“We will promote accountability for these sectoral operations at community levels as discussed in the meeting we had Friday with the spiritual leadership. The spiritual leaders and NPOs have agreed to open their doors for the drug users and families.”