Published: 26 July 2016
Mrs Quek Bin Hwee, SANA President,
Mr Chng Hwee Hong, Chairman, SCORE,
Mr Desmond Chin, Deputy Commissioner, Singapore Prison Service,
Mr Winston Wong, Deputy Director, Central Narcotics Bureau,
Members of the SANA Board of Management,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am pleased to join you at the official opening of the SANA Step-Up Centre: A New Beginning. The SANA Step-Up Centre is part of our efforts to enhance community support for ex-drug abusers in their rehabilitation journey.
Drug Abuse Situation
2. The drug situation remains challenging. Globally, attitudes towards drug use are becoming more liberal, and some countries are calling for the decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs like cannabis. Our approach in Singapore is different. We do not tolerate drugs, because drug consumption is addictive and harmful, and destroys families. We adopt a tough stance on drugs so that our children can grow up safe from drugs.
3. In Singapore last year a total of 3,343 drug abusers were arrested in 2015. This is an increase of 6% from 2014. In addition, 1,309 new drug abusers were arrested in 2015, a 20% increase from the previous year. We are watching these trends closely.
4. In 2015, the number of repeat abusers fell by 2%, compared to 2014. While our recidivism rate remains relatively low compared to other countries, we cannot rest on our laurels. Every repeat abuser is one too many. Some ex-drug abusers may not have strong support networks and peers who can help them stay drug-free. They may also face challenges in finding employment, accommodation, and re-establishing ties with their families. Strong community support from our partners, including SANA, is key to helping the ex-drug abusers reintegrate into society.
Establishment of the SANA Step-Up Centre
5. To better support ex-drug abusers in their rehabilitation and reintegration journey, SANA embarked on a one-year pilot of a dedicated centre in January last year. The Centre provided counselling and other services to support ex-drug abusers. 339 ex-drug abusers have since sought help from the Centre. This is an encouraging start.
6. Given the success of the pilot, SANA decided to set up the Step-Up Centre. SANA renovated a part of their office earlier this year to create a more conducive and purposeful facility to provide advice to ex-drug abusers and their families. When an ex-drug abuser walks into the Centre, a trained para-counsellor will assess his needs and recommend an action plan. The ex-drug abuser can also find out more information in areas like community assistance schemes, legal issues, counselling and mediation assistance. I am confident that the SANA Step-Up Centre will help our ex-drug abusers lead purposeful lives and encourage their families to support them in their reintegration journey.
7. Let me share two success stories. The first story is that of Raja, who made positive strides in his life.
8. After his release from Prisons, Raja approached the Centre in October last year for financial assistance. Besides assisting him financially, the Centre also provided him with counselling sessions, which helped him overcome many of his family and work issues and boosted his confidence. He found work as a retail assistant at NTUC Fairprice. In June this year, 8 months after his first visit to the Centre, Raja remarried his ex-wife Selvi and rebuilt their family life.
9. The second story is that of Sam. Sam visited the Centre in June last year. He had just been released from Prisons, and was homeless, jobless, and on the brink of depression. Under the guidance of the SANA para-counsellor, Sam developed better coping skills and newfound motivation for life. Through the Centre's assistance, he found a job, reconnected and moved in with his mother and sister. Sam faithfully attends his counselling sessions at SANA, and has enrolled in the tattoo removal programme provided by SANA in collaboration with the National Skin Centre. He is grateful to SANA for the help and encouragement he received, and excited about the new future ahead.
10. Success stories like Raja's and Sam's are possible because of the availability of strong community support. They are testament to the good and meaningful work that you are doing every day to help our ex-drug abusers rebuild their lives and stay drug-free. Thank you SANA for "stepping up" to provide more support for the ex-drug abusers and their families.
11. Even as we build a community of support around ex-drug abusers, their commitment to take responsibility for their own rehabilitation is critical. When they are motivated and determined to persevere in their rehabilitation and reintegration journey, society will be ready to go the extra mile to support them. Together with the community, their families and themselves, we can create more success stories, and strive towards a drug-free community.
12. Thank you.