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J&K’s first ever wide-ranging Drug De-addiction Policy gets SAC’s nod

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AMMU: In its first meeting after the imposition of President’s rule, the State Administrative Council (SAC)—equivalent to cabinet in popular government, accorded sanction to the Jammu and Kashmir’s first ever Drug De-addiction Policy to provide for a comprehensive mechanism to address the rising menace of drug addiction in the State.

With Governor Satya Pal Malik in chair and Advisors Khurshid Ahmad Ganai and Kewal Kumar Sharma, Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam and Principal Secretary to Governor, Umang Narula in attendance, the SAC on Friday also approved a significant and long-pending project for Pollution Abatement of River Devika and River Tawi at Udhampur Town under the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP), besides creation of 675 posts of nursing staff for the newly created Government Medical Colleges at Anantnag, Baramulla, Doda, Kathua& Rajouri.

The first ever policy of Jammu and Kashmir on Drug De-addiction Policy which had become necessary in view of serious rise in substance abuse across the State, was finally approved by Governor’s cabinet on Friday.

“The issue of functioning of various De-addiction facilities and provision of good health conditions to the inmates, establishment of rehabilitation centres, Drug De-addiction Centres and providing a comprehensive mechanism to address this malady has been a subject matter of PIL No. 317/05 in the case titled Javid Iqbal V/s State of J&K and others,” a spokesman said.

The Court had directed the State Government to draft the Drug De-addiction Policy and provide a more comprehensive mechanism to address the menace of drug addiction.

Consequent to this a series of meetings were chaired by the Chief Secretary and slew of directions were issued to Health & Medical Education (H&ME) Department including the release of Rs 50,000 each to GMC, Jammu and Srinagar to facilitate an empirical study on the extent of Drug Addiction and De-addiction challenges.

The H&ME Department was also asked to appoint Nodal Officers to integrate/monitor the activities regarding Drug De-addiction across the various Departments in the State.

The Policy drafted by the Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience’s, Government Medical College, Srinagar incorporates inputs from experts of SKIMS Bemina, GMC Jammu and State AIDS Control Organization. The Policy paper was extensively deliberated by a Committee of officers in the H&ME Department headed by Principal Secretary, H&ME Department. The Committee made its recommendations in the form of a Draft Drug De-Addiction Policy which was also put in the public domain by the Department for inviting suggestions/comments and many useful suggestions/comments received from various notable institutes like TATA Institute of Social Sciences, NIMHANS, PGI and State Crime Branch were incorporated in the final draft. The H&ME Department pursued the finalization of the draft policy vigorously.

The Policy focuses on various key aspects including prevention, rehabilitation and integration, training and sensitization, community participation, generating awareness, upgradation/establishment of drug de-addiction centers. It lays out a comprehensive action plan for addressing the drug addiction issue in its entirety.

Pertinent to mention here is that there has been a steep rise in physical, mental and substance-use disorders over the past two decades across the State. There has been an alarming shift inthe patternof substance use in terms ofrise in the number of femaleusers, decreasing age at first-use, increasing use of solvents, injectable opiates and use of steroids as well asincreasing drug related deaths (over- dose and accidents). The menace of drug addiction if not controlled will take the form of an epidemic.

As per the data base of GMC, Jammu and Associated Hospitals, the number of patients visiting OPD with substance related problems were 2122 in 2014-15, 2278 in 2015-16, 2354 in 2016-17 and 2398 in 2017-18. The number of patients with substance use disorders admitted in the year 2014-15 was 46, in 2015-16 it was 55 and in 2017-18 about 66 patients were treated in the in-patient department of the de-addiction Centre of GMC, Jammu.

According to the database of GMC, Srinagar and Associated Hospitals, the number of patients with substance use visiting OPD in the year 2016-2017 was 6157 and between Jan 2017 and Dec 2017 it was 6550. A recent study conducted in a Drug De-addiction Centre in Srinagar, found that over two-third of patients in the study had started substance abuse in the age group of 11-20 years.

At the Community Centre, SMHS Complex, the number of patients with drug dependence admitted in the year 2016-2017 was 535 and between 2017-2018 it was 710.

Most common substances of abuse identified included nicotine, opium and medicinal opioids, cannabis, benzodiazepines and other prescription medications, alcohol and inhalants.

Meanwhile, in another significant decision, the SAC also approved the proposal of the Housing & Urban Development Department for Implementation of the project namely “Pollution Abatement of River Devika and River Tawi at Udhampur Town ” under the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP).

The project will be executed at an estimated cost of Rs. 186.74 Crore based on 90:10 funding pattern between the Government of India and the State. Both the rivers are considered sacred by the people; however, pollution levels and silt deposition over the years have increased.

The project inter-alia includes construction of 3 Sewage Treatment Plants of 8 MLD, 4 MLD and 1.6 MLD capacity, complete Sewerage Network of 129.27 Km, development of 2 Cremation Ghats on North and South side, development of 2 Veding Ghats, protection fencing and landscaping, small scale Hydro Power Plants and 3 Solar Power Plants.

The Urban Environmental Engineering Department would be the main authority for project implementation, operation and maintenance of the project.

The SAC also directed the Housing and Urban Development Department to devise ways and means of restoring the water flow in the river Devika to an optimum level so that the river can perform its natural functions.

Finally, the SAC on Friday accorded sanction to the creation of 675 posts of nursing staff for the newly created Government Medical Colleges at Anantnag, Baramulla, Doda, Kathua& Rajouri.

As per the Medical Council of India (MCI) norms, nursing staff strength of 175 posts is required during first year of establishment of a new Medical College. However, the existing strength of nursing staff in the District Hospitals, deployed in new medical colleges to serve as Associated Hospital of the Medical Colleges are not sufficient to meet the MCI requirement. Accordingly, a need to create 675 posts of nursing staff has been felt to fulfill the MCI requirement.

Once the requirements of MCI are fulfilled, the Health and Medical Education Department shall approach the MCI for final inspection of these five new medical colleges and issuance of Letter of Permission (LoP) to start the 1st batch of MBBS course in these medical colleges.

With the start of five new Medical Colleges in the J&K State, the intake capacity of students for MBBS course shall increase substantially with corresponding increase in number of trained medical professionals every passing year.