James Louw, deputy chief executive manager of Tehillah said the facility was moved to open their doors after seeing the rise in ‘tik’ addiction in the community.
‘We were only a shelter for street dwellers and had a soup kitchen to assist with feeding all the people that were coming into the shelter. We also started a crÃ¨che where mothers getting a support grant and those that were unemployed could send their children at a lower cost and sometimes for free. However, the ‘tik’ addiction phenomenon was escalating in the community. Children and adults were getting hooked on ‘tik’ and other substances. We had no choice but to do something about it,’ said Louw.
He claimed a nearby school had to be shut down due to the escalating drug abuse and resultant violent incidents. ‘This was enough motivation for us to start a rehabilitation centre,’ said Louw.
Tehillah offers six months’ treatment to adults over 18 years of age. Patients spend three months in the facility and three months at home, only visiting the facility for a few hours during the day in the second half. For all this they pay R5 500. The facility received Government registration in August, but has been operating for seven years. The registration means they will now receive a subsidy from Government.
‘If the patient is not rehabilitated by the time the programme ends we take them in again because we want to effect change,’ he said.
Louw said if a person stayed on the street with their family they accommodated the entire family to ensure that they fast track the patient’s recovery.
‘It is no use treating a person for substance dependence and sending them back to the environment that prompted the addiction,’ he said.
The Prevention of and Treatment of Substance Abuse Act requires facilities offering care to people with substance addiction to be registered before providing care to patients.
Errol Yolk, a rehabilitation co-ordinator at Tehillah, was once an addict himself.
‘I’m a product of this facility. I started using drugs at a young age and dropped out of school. I later got a job but that didn’t work out. So I joined a gang. After joining the gang I was using and selling drugs,’ said Yolk.
He got married and had two boys but the drugs took over his life.
‘Part of the reason was that I did not think there was a way out for me was that I was a gangster and I was using drugs. I did not know what I would do if I quit the gang and stopped selling and using drugs. I had a criminal record and knew it would be difficult to find a job. I think that is part of what keeps most people from seeking help. They don’t have options outside of the gang,’ he said.
When Yolk almost killed his wife and children out of anger he decided to seek help.
Yolk used dagga, mandrax, ecstasy and tik. ‘I used a bit of heroin but did not stick with it,’ he said.
He went to Tehillah and after completing his six months’ treatment he was offered a volunteer position which means he isn’t paid a salary.
‘Seeing these young people coming in here is always emotional for me. With each young person that comes in here I wonder how much of a role I played in their addiction,’ he said.
Tehillah patients are seen by a psychologist who visits twice a month, an occupational therapist, a social worker and a nurse.
Dr Ray Eberlein, of the Central Drug Authority (CDA) in the Department of Social Development said it was very hard for them to keep a tab on the quality of the rehabilitation programmes unless facilities were registered.
He said they often only came to hear of the dubious operations when people complained. ‘Someone would set up a facility and run for a period of time and run out of money. I would estimate we have 80 registered drug rehabs on record and eight to a dozen that we don’t know of,’ he said.