Published: 14 May 2022
Grassroots Adviser for Woodlands
Ms Mariam Jaafar
Grassroots Adviser for Admiralty
Mr Vikram Nair
President, Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA)
Mrs Gillian Koh-Tan
Members of the SANA Board of Management
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. A very good morning.
2. I am very happy to be with you and I am honoured to be invited to this event to launch SANA’s Step-Up @Northwest. This is SANA’s third step-up centre in the community. I am very happy that SANA is bringing their services to the Northwest region to better serve the reintegration needs of former drug abusers and their families.
SANA’s Step-Up Centres
3. We know drug rehabilitation is not an easy process. I often visit the prisons, Drug Rehabilitation Centres, and have had many heart-to-heart talks with our inmates. I have met offenders who have been incarcerated multiple times, and I have also met offenders who are about to be released. I realised that their journey is not easy, and all of us must continue to play a part and support them and their families.
4. Former drug abusers face many challenges in reintegrating into society. The support of the community is very important in helping ex-abusers to get back on their feet, and to ensure that they do not go back to drugs.
5. Since its inception in 1972, SANA has been a key community partner in supporting the journey of rehabilitation and reintegration for ex-drug abusers.
6. In July 2016, as part of the recommendations of the Taskforce on Drugs to enhance community support for abusers and their families, SANA set up its first step-up centre, Step-Up @Sengkang. The centre provides support services in the aftercare phase such as counselling and financial assistance. The centre also serves as a community touch point to better support former drug abusers in their rehabilitation journey.
7. The first Step-Up centre achieved good outcomes. For example, though clients may have had only wanted to seek interim financial assistance at first, a number of them also ended up attending the Step-Up centre’s reintegration and recovery programmes, such as the Continuing Care Support Group (CCSG). This shows that such community touchpoints that offered support services, could also be avenues for SANA to reach out to clients and offer them further support that could help them in their recovery.
8. The first centre showed that this model of service delivery was successful, which led SANA to set up the second centre, Step-Up @Taman Jurong, in July 2019. This second centre was set up in partnership with the Ministry of Social and Family Development and is co-located at the Social Service Office (SSO), or SSO @Taman Jurong. This means that clients are able to access SANA and SSO services in the same location, which serves the community as a one-stop social, rehabilitation and reintegration support centre.
9. Since the first two Step-Up centres were set up, they have served a total of 2,360 clients through various programmes.
10. Step-Up @Northwest will be SANA’s third centre. It will help SANA serve former drug abusers and their families in the Woodlands, Marsiling and Admiralty areas. It will offer services such as employment and financial support, counselling and case management services, and recovery support groups in partnership with the People’s Association and volunteer group Path-I-Choose (PIC).
11. SANA’s partnership with PIC will allow SANA to tap on PIC’s established network in the community to better reach out to clients in Woodlands and Admiralty. PIC has been active in Woodlands and Admiralty since 2018, conducting home visits in the community, and organising outings for beneficiaries.
12. PIC’s work is volunteer-centric and would not have been possible without passionate and dedicated volunteers like Isam. Isam has been involved in voluntary work with PIC ever since his release from prison in 2013. He has participated in home visits and gave motivational talks to residents in halfway houses. Recently, he even co-facilitated a few sessions of the CCSG programme at Step-up @Northwest after receiving training from SANA and PIC.
13. Over the years, Isam has worked hard to change himself and to lead a life free from drugs. It has not been easy, but today, Isam is happily married and still highly motivated in his recovery journey. It is thanks to volunteers like Isam and partners like PIC, that Step-up @Northwest is able to support their clients in the community. Please join me in giving them a big round of applause.
14. Since the pilot of Step-Up @Northwest started in July 2020, SANA has reached out to around 300 former drug abusers and their families. We are encouraged by the results during the pilot phase, and hope that more will benefit with the launch of Step-Up @Northwest today. One of those who have benefitted from Step-Up @Northwest is Henry. Henry had faced many challenges after his release, such as adjusting to a new environment and adapting to life after release. Henry connected with Step-Up @Northwest, where he joined their CCSG programme.
15. Through the programme, he learnt that there were others like him, and he is not alone in his challenges and recovery journey. Gradually, Henry was able to see how his experiences in the past had shaped him to become a better person. Today, Henry no longer worries about others finding out about his past. He is confident in himself and is able to cope and manage himself better. He has even started pursuing hobbies, such as joining the community choir after rediscovering his passion for singing.
16. Such success stories affirm the integral role our community plays in helping former drug abusers reintegrate into society, especially in the initial period of their release when they are still finding their footing. On top of Step-Up @Northwest, I am also happy to hear that SANA plans to expand its reach to other areas in the Northwest region. For a start, as mentioned by Gillian earlier, the SANA team will explore a new model of operating, where they will co-locate themselves at Social Service Agencies and community partners’ offices on a roving basis.
17. This will bring SANA closer to their clients and families. SANA’s vision is to eventually have a community partner in each area, so that they are able to bring their assessments, programmes and services directly to clients in an even more accessible way.
18. I am heartened to see SANA and our community partners coming together as one to serve the diverse needs of former drug abusers and their families. This is testament of our community’s readiness to support anyone who wants to start a new chapter in their lives.
19. In fact, whenever I meet our friends in prisons, as well as those who have been released, one of the organisations that I consistently ask them to get connected to is SANA. This is important, as in all my involvements, I’ve seen that those who are connected to a support group are very likely to have a better recovery journey. So, I want to thank Gillian, Karim, all the Board Members, management and the team for working hard and working with our partners such as Yellow Ribbon Singapore, and many more, and for making this effort. Without you, the journey of ex-offenders and former drug abusers will be tough.
20. We are all too familiar with the harmful effects that drugs can have on our society, but my CNB colleagues and I, together with our partners, want to do a lot more to raise awareness on the harmful effects of drugs. We will continue to work hard, as we have seen how drugs destroy individuals, lives, families and society, and we do not want more to have to go through this recovery process, which is very tough. We don’t want that to happen to you and your family. But for those who are affected, we will support you and continue to give you and your family the fullest support so that you can have better lives upon your release and during your recovery.
21. Drug use impacts the families and children of drug abusers. Drug use can also directly affect our safety and security. For example, drug abuse can lead to violent behaviour, hallucination and loss of control. In March this year, we saw several incidents where attackers wielded dangerous weapons such as knives in public and threatened the safety of innocent people. In the course of investigations, it was subsequently found that some of the perpetrators of these incidents, such as those that took place at Buangkok Crescent, Strathmore Avenue, Bukit Batok and Bendemeer Road, were suspected to be under the influence of drugs, or had a history of substance abuse.
22. These incidents are unfortunate reminders of the harms that drugs can cause our society. They also highlight just how important the efforts of SANA and our community partners are in supporting former drug abusers in their journey of recovery. Empowering people to live their lives free from drugs keeps themselves, their families, and our community safe and secure.
23. This is why we need to continue to find ways to strengthen our community approach. The success of our approach can be seen in our two-year recidivism rate of 20% for the 2019 release cohort, which is the lowest it has ever been. As heard through the stories of Isam and Henry, this would not have been possible without the determination and perseverance of former abusers to stay drug-free, as well as the good work of SANA and our community partners like PIC in supporting their recovery journey.
24. I am confident that SANA will continue to make a positive impact in the lives of recovering drug abusers and help them to step-up to a life free of drugs. With that, it gives me great pleasure to declare Step-Up @Northwest officially open.
25. Before I end, let us give a big round of applause to Gillian and all our friends from SANA. Thank you.