In Cagayan de Oro City, Rhyselle Bernadette Melliza-Descallar, Head of City Social Welfare Development Office-Oro Citizens Wellness & Development Center, works tirelessly to help people who use drugs (PWUDs) recover and live productive lives.
A nurse by profession, she shares how the city’s officials and local barangays are working together to help persons who use drugs (PWUDs) get back into the swing of society at large.
Mapping the city
The first step is to profile the areas. Cagayan de Oro City maps out its barangays to help determine how they can effectively carry out a Community-Based Drug Rehabilitation (CBDR) program for the local communities. Mapping out the overall condition is key in creating and implementing it.
“We did a resource mapping at the city and barangay level to help identify the stakeholders that are able to help us in our quest. We invited everyone, giving emphasis that now is no longer the time to remain blind, deaf, and mute to the drug problem in our community,” explained Descallar.
“Some of them gave monetary and in-kind assistance, while others also helped with the manpower or human resource services, and those who are from the religious sector offered to help by providing spiritual counseling, and NGOs who are experts in rehabilitation helped as service providers.”
Of Cagayan de Oro city’s 80 barangays, 9 are unaffected and 8 are declared as drug-cleared. Of the remaining 63 affected barangays, 9 are slightly affected, 49 are moderately affected and 5 are severely affected. Since 2016, there have been 7,020 surrendering drug users in the city.
To date, there are 69 barangays who have established their Community-Based Drug Rehabilitation Program (CBDRP).
“We aim not just to have a drug-free city, but a drug-resistant community. It has been our goal to train and empower the barangays on how to handle their own CBDR Program. We believe that if there is empowerment, then there will be sustainability in the program,” she added.
Identifying the right programs
The City Anti-Drug Abuse Council (CADAC) operates under four vital aspects – Prevention, Reduction, Intervention, and Community Support.
It also follows the three pillars in identifying the right program for the PWUDs ensuring that these programs touch or involve the following: the self (PWUD), the family, and the community, believing that substance abuse is not only a medical problem but also a social concern and a family affair.
The team ensures that the programs cover the holistic wellbeing of the individual using the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 12 Principles of Community-Based Treatment as the city’s guide in approving programs for the PWUDs in the community.
At the moment, the CADAC has adopted the Katatagan, Kalusugan, at Damayan sa Komunidad (KKDK), a community-based drug rehabilitation program.
The KKDK Programs were initially developed by the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) in 2016 for Quezon City but have since been adopted by many other local government units and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) that uses it as a pre-release program for persons deprived of liberty who availed of plea bargaining.
The KKDK programs include drug recovery skills, life skills, and family sessions. There are KKDK programs for moderate risk users, plea-bargainers, and minors. These programs have been tested in selected communities in the Philippines and there is the initial evidence of their effectiveness.
“As early as 2019, USAID trained our community facilitators on the use of KKDK treatment programs for our community-based drug rehabilitation in Cagayan de Oro City,” said Rhyselle.
USAID RenewHealth is a five-year project aims to help persons who use drugs, people in recovery, and their families obtain access to informal care, self-help, or community-based rehabilitation and recovery support to reduce or prevent drug dependence.
Cagayan de Oro city is one of USAID RenewHealth’s partner sites.
All programs for PWUDs involve wrap-around services and aftercare to make sure that there is a continuum of care.
Assistance does not end when the rehabilitation program has been completed, the team looks after the support system of the client, understanding that building a strong foundation for the PWUD’s recovery capital is equally important as the recovery process itself.
Cagayan de Oro’s CADAC aims to spread the message of hope that there is life after rehabilitation, everybody deserves a second chance, and recovery is possible.
Identifying CBDR champions
Drug use and addiction is a multi-faceted problem that involves a multidisciplinary approach to address the problem.
In Cagayan de Oro City, the strong partnership of the government, the non-government organizations, and the religious sector proved to be an integral component for the implementation of the program and the identification of community CBDR champions.
As part of Cagayan de Oro City’s celebration of Drug Abuse Prevention and Control month, Rhyselle and her team conducted a contest to all their barangays to submit success stories – stories of recovery and inspiration as a result of their CBDR efforts. These stories may feature community champions involved in CBDR in their various barangays.
Community champions are real people, men and women from all backgrounds who at one time have experienced drug use, have been rehabilitated, or have recovered using the community-based drug rehabilitation (CBDR) approach.
CBDR community champions can also include healthcare workers, social workers, community volunteers, LGU officials, and leaders who have significant CBDR implementation in the local government units.
Unique efforts in Cagayan de Oro City
Two of the other unique efforts of the City Government in terms of Aftercare and Prevention are the Monthly Tabo and My School, My Home Programs.
Monthly Tabo is a part of the Aftercare Program of the CBDRP. It happens every third week of the Month from March to October each year.
The activity aims to showcase the different livelihood products of the PWUDs or ‘responders’ and their family members, as well as the different products of the barangays with active and ongoing CBDR and Aftercare Programs in the city.
The goal of Tabo is to support the recovery journey of the PWUDs by introducing them to an alternative way of earning of income and supporting their families in a more dignified manner.
The My School, My Home is a prevention program in partnership with the Department of Education designed to create a safe and supportive “community” in the school and community by fostering a family environment in homeroom classes — a “home away from home.”
Teachers and school officials were trained on techniques adopted from the therapeutic community (TC) and modified to fit the classroom and school setting.
Supportive components of the program include parent and student leaders of the Parents, Students, and Teachers Association as parent facilitators and peer coaches.
The cultivation of Emotional Development, Critical Thinking, and Personal & Social Responsibility are the pillars of this Prevention Model.
According to Rhyselle, the road to recovery may not always be easy for those affected with drug use and undergoing treatment. But there is hope. Many of their PWUDs completed treatment and are now living normal lives.
“Padayon lang (Just keep on going)! Keep on going with your desire to recover. It is never too late to change, you are not alone in this journey. We are here, we will listen, we understand and we will work with you in the process. You have us. Let us take on this journey together. Dili pa ulahi ang tanan, higala, uban ta sa bag-ong ugma [It’s not too late, friend, we are with you toward a new morning].”
To learn more about the CBDR, you can visit https://www.facebook.com/CBDRProjectPH.