Government eyes ₱3 billion for drug rehab programs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Three billion pesos is being allocated in the 2017 health budget for the construction of rehabilitation centers for drug dependents, the health department said Wednesday.

"In the 2017 budget, there's about three billion (pesos) budget for establishing four 'mega' treatment and rehabilitation centers and four regional treatment and rehabilitation centers," Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Dr. Paulyn Rosell-Ubial told CNN Philippines' The Source. These additional eight facilities will augment the 13 centers that DOH now runs.

The DOH is requesting ₱144 billion for its budget in 2017.

She cited five local government-run drug rehabilitation facilities that were existing, such as the one in President Rodrigo Duterte's hometown of Davao. "We're encouraging local governments to actually establish one per province," Ubial said.

If local governments could be persuaded to construct the facilities, these, along with private facilities "can cover the needs of those who have been identified as drug dependents in this country," she added.

 

On Monday, the DOH presented the first rehab center in Nueva Ecija, which will be ready to accommodate 2,500 persons by November. The center was funded by an anonymous Chinese donor.

Related: Major rehabilitation center opening in Nueva Ecija

The fast-tracking of the drug rehab centers come following the government's shift to rehabilitating hundreds of thousands of drug dependents. More than 700,000 pushers and addicts have turned themselves in to authorities before October 7, which marked the end of the first 100 days of the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"We're shifting very quickly from the national security mode into the public health mode especially regarding drugs," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said on Monday.

Related: Duterte admin to focus on rehab of drug dependents

The ₱122-billion budget for 2016 includes ₱4.0 billion to family health, which oversees the reproductive health programs. Ubial emphasized that reproductive health was a priority of President Rodrigo Duterte's 10-point economic agenda. ₱44 million has also been allotted for the enrollment of poor Filipinos in the government health insurance program known as PhilHealth.

The burden of disease

Drug rehabilitation is just one of the health department's major tasks. On its radar is dealing with the triple-threat of mosquito-borne diseases: Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya.

Ubial says that DOH is on heightened alert for mosquito control. There is special focus on disbursing packages containing bed nets, repellants, vitamins and information material to pregnant women, since Zika can cause birth defects. An outbreak of Chikungunya in a town in Cavite was reported in the past few months.

However, it is still non-communicable, non-infectious diseases that are on the rise. These include cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, strokes, cerebral-vascular accidents, and cancer.

"(We have) in medical terms, the 'triple burden of disease,' (with) the non-communicable or degenerative diseases; (the) infectious diseases like tuberculosis, dengue and malaria. But we also see a rise of what we call diseases of modern day living, and that's injuries and mental health."

On October 5, a bill called the Philippine Mental Health Act was filed in the Senate. The DOH has considered mental health a priority program.

CNN Philippines multi-platform writer Regine Cabato contributed to this report.