Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday announced free treatment for poor drug addicts at all state-run de-addiction centres, and also ordered the police not to harass addicts or their families in any way.Chairing a high-level meeting of Civil Surgeons, Medical Superintendents and Principals of the Government Medical Colleges here at Punjab Bhawan this afternoon, the Chief Minister directed his Chief Principal Secretary to ensure that the necessary funds for free treatment are immediately placed at the disposal of the concerned deputy commissioners.If more funds were needed, he would sanction the same from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, said Captain Amarinder Singh, while directing the Health Department to explore the possibility of seeking financial aid from reputed national and international health organizations, besides engaging with NGOs already working to fight drug abuse.Noting that drug trafficking was an inter-state problem, of which Punjab was the biggest victim, Captain Amarinder Singh said that he would personally take up the issue with the Prime Minister and urge him to intensify Centre's efforts to prevent the entry of drugs and narcotics into Punjab from the adjoining states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. IG (STF) informed the meeting that there was a provision under the NDPS Act for seeking funds from the Centre to supplement the State's efforts to fight the drug menace. In response, the Chief Minister asked the Health Minister to take up the issue with the Union Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.The Chief Minister also underlined the need to keep a strict vigil over the nefarious activities of some foreign students, especially of African origin, who were studying in private institutions, colleges and universities, and were reportedly into drug smuggling and peddling. He asked the management of these institutions to crack down on such students.Responding to another demand raised in the meeting, Captain Amarinder Singh asked the Health Department to work out the modalities, in consultation with the Transport Department, for extending the facility of free travel to the poor drug addicts along with one attendant each in government busses for travel to the nearby de-addiction centres, on the lines of cancer patients.The Chief Minister took serious note of reports of police probing the antecedents of drug addicts taking admission in drug-addiction centres. He directed ACS Home to issue strict orders against entry of any police official into the centres.Captain Amarinder Singh underscored the need to crack down on unscrupulous chemists who were openly supplying countermand drugs and medicines by flouting all the prescribed norms and asked the Health Minister to convene a meeting of chemist associations to discuss ways to put an end to such unlawful practices. However, he made it clear that genuine buyers should not be harassed in the guise of strict enforcement. The Chief Minister directed the Health Department to put in place a mechanism for utilising the services of private hospitals, medical and educational institutions in the treatment of addicts by empaneling them on prescribed government rates. He also asked the department to devise a minimum protocol for medical, health and diagnostic services to be provided to the patients. Taking part in the deliberations, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal called for humane treatment of drug addicts and urged doctors to motivate parents to get their addicted children treated without fear of social stigma. The Finance Department, he said, would extend full support to the Health Department in meeting the shortage of super speciality doctors in psychiatry.Health Minister Brahm Mohindra informed had earlier informed the meeting that his department would soon recruit more psychiatrists to overcome the shortage to ensure effective and timely treatment of the addicts. He also suggested engaging the services of private players for opening OOAT-based OPD clinics.Psychiatrist Civil Hospital Tarn Taran Dr. Rana Ranbir Singh suggested launching OEND (Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution) programme, which was extensively being implemented in US, to save the lives of hardened drug addicts.
Principal Government Medical College Patiala Dr. B S Sidhu said that synthetic drugs were far more dangerous and harmful than the natural drugs and focus should be to curb the supply chain of these artificially created drugs.Dr. Sandeep Bhola, Incharge de-addiction centre Kapurthala, sought Rs.5 Lacs in aid for setting up a special gallery in the Pushpa Gujral Science City at Kapurthala for creating awareness amongst students about drug abuse and its prevention. The amount was immediately sanctioned by the Health Minister.The meeting was attended, amongst others, by Media Advisor to CM Raveen Thukral, Chief Principal Secretary to CM Suresh Kumar, Principal Secretary to CM Tejveer Singh, Additional Chief Secretary Home NS Kalsi, Additional Chief Secretary Health Satish Chandra, IG/STF R K Jaiswal, ADGP Law & Order Ishwar Singh, Managing Director Punjab State Health Systems Corporation Varun Roojam, Additional Secretary Health B Srinivasan, Director Health Services Jaspal Kaur.