The Philippines’ War on Drugs

We started with a 30 bed private psychiatric facility in 1999 and the following year added a 30 bed drug treatment and rehabilitation facility in Manila. The patient population grew until we reached a 200 bed capacity. We decided to establish a branch in another island (Cebu) for another 200 beds in 2005. In 2010, because of the influx of patients, the waiting time for a client to get admitted to our rehabilitation centre was approximately 2- 3 months and we realised that such waiting was not good for the institution and the patients as well. The corporation was granted a loan for expansion of both facilities (Manila and Cebu). Staffing was increased to compliment the new expansions. Everything was running smoothly until 2016 when the new President was elected and took a direct and harsh approach to addiction. It was at the heart of his administrations’ agenda and the people resonated with him. There were 700,000 drug surrenderers when people started getting killed in the streets due to “drug related incidents”. Consequently, we observed that admissions in both our facilities slowly declined. Drug rehabilitation centres both private and public (mega rehabs with 10,000 beds) mushroomed in the community as there are no strict government regulations being implemented. If anyone had what looked like a “good enough” place, anyone can open a facility. The rehabilitation program did not matter. We thought of actively marketing our facilities and services but the people are just so scared to be associated with rehabilitation centres or drugs in the general. How can we sustain this social business that we started?


Effective retention program in a center of ophthalmology


Teamwork a cross teams

Participant comments on The Philippines’ War on Drugs

  1. Quite a challenging situation. I presume the population feels desperate for change, if they tolerate such measures. Increasing referrals is important, both for your institution, and as a public health measure to help prevent patients from running afoul of this extreme approach to drug dependence. However, I’m skeptical about simply putting up billboards in your current climate, because it may have unforeseen political consequences. Maybe there is room to “nudge” the public conversation in a direction of compassion, or possibly to engage law enforcement and/or national leadership to be supportive of this alternative or supplementary approach. Many people have family members they worry about and probably could be reached, with the right message. Who are the patients you want to attract? Who are the most vulnerable and/or most in need of your services? Do you treat dual-diagnosis patients? Should you focus on some specific type of patient who needs you and will trust you? Are there populations you aren’t equipped to help? Being explicit about inviting (for example) non-violent patients who struggle with psychiatric issues could decrease fear, resulting in increased admissions of appropriate patients.

  2. Hi Fa
    This is pretty intense…..I totally understand how you feel about this.

    Maybe in all this Caos, your hospital needs to redefine what success is and to me it sounds like getting 300+ patients in your hospitals out of the 3M plus addicts. One thing is for sure that the President means business in stopping the Drug menance. Maybe you need to get some sort of amnesty for patients in your hospitals and use social media to your advantage. Keep us updated

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