Penang to provide ‘sanctuary’ for drug addicts

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GEORGE TOWN: Penang will soon have a state-sponsored “sanctuary” for drug addicts and their families where they can get free access to consultation, support and necessary information for rehabilitation.

The centre, to be set-up later this year, will be located in a discrete section of the government administration complex of Komtar, and will be run by the state’s new Penang Drug Prevention Initiative (PDPI) with an initial grant of RM100,000.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said today anyone with drug-related problems could seek help at the centre, without having to divulge their names and identities.

He assured Penangites that the centre would be located as far as possible from the public eye so individuals who solicit help could do so in private and without any shame.

Speaking at the launch of the PDPI here he said the body would also cooperate with federal agencies like the police.

“The police and the state government will respect the anonymity of people who visit the sanctuary,” he said. “This programme is not meant to be judgmental but to offer sincere rehabilitation support.”

The PDPI is chaired by criminologist Assoc Prof P Sundramoorthy and includes among its ranks, experts in the field as well as members of the state police.

Lim pointed out that according to the National Anti-Drugs Agency, 18,889 addicts were recorded in Penang from 2013 to 2015, the highest in the country.

“This total only refers to those categorised as drug addicts and does not include those who have been detained under other sections, especially those who use drugs like amphetamines and ketamine in entertainment places,” he said, stressing that the overall figure may be higher.

“It is better that we face this problem now instead of shutting it out, before it’s too late and explodes,” he said.

He stressed that in the process of eradicating the drug scourge, the state would also find that crime would diminish as well.

Sundramoorthy said the PDPI will also help direct individuals with problems to other appropriate drug rehabilitation organisations where they can get proper help.

“The centre will be known as Mutiara Harapan (Pearl of Hope),” he said, adding that preparations to train volunteers and staff, as well as to build the office were already underway.

“We will provide the dissemination of information related to drug addiction and give counselling,” he said, adding that the initiative was a collective effort among various relevant parties including the police.

Those wishing to gain more information about the Penang Drug Prevention Initiative can visit its website at www.pdpi.my.