More than 1.3 million people in the Philippines are registered as drug users. So far, detention and deterrence have been the primary intervention. Relapse is seen as a criminal offence and can lead to imprisonment of 6-12 years. Under the EU Philippine Health Sector Reform (EU-PHSRC) program, EPOS Health Management assisted in the conceptualization and piloting of a medical care model for the first fully-voluntary, public-sector drug abuse treatment clinics.
Drug use is now viewed as a chronic medical disorder to be treated repeatedly, without penalties or prejudice. Thus, the Recovery Clinics (RC) offer an alternative and complementary pathway to the criminal justice-based system. Most of the beneficiaries are unemployed and have low educational attainment or technical skills. RCs promote the re-integration into the community and the workplace and preserve human dignity via privacy and confidentiality protections under Philippine law.
With the technical assistance of the EPOS experts, the RC concept could be rapidly developed and piloted in Tarlac. Infrastructure development and contracting of RC staff was managed and paid for by the Provincial Government of Tarlac while EPOS provided managerial and professional operations support. In July 2017, after only 6 months, the Tarlac RC was accredited by the Department of Health (DOH) and became operational. Since then it has provided assessments and drug-related education for 1,347 patients through a mix of individual, family and group therapy sessions in the facility, and in community and family settings.
With the success of the Tarlac clinic, another RC is due to open in June/July 20178. A third is in the planning stages. By filling essential health service gaps, the RC concept will now be scaled up to cover all provinces. To kick-start this process, the EPOS experts will continue to develop either Tarlac or Pasay City into a Center of Excellence (CoE). It can serve as an in-service training facility and consulting resource for Recovery Clinic personnel from other parts of the country.