With thousands of people thronging de-addiction centers in Punjab after the 21-day lockdown began, making social distancing almost impossible, the government has now decided to take the opioid assisted treatment (OOAT) to the addict's door step.
As part of the pilot project, the government has launched mobile OOAT vans to provide consultations, conduct screening and distribute de-addiction drugs to addicts in Kapurthala district.
Owing to the restriction of movement and increased police presence, drug peddling has decreased considerably in the state, pushing addicts to queue in front of OOAT centres for cure. The total number of people registered for OOAT has risen to around three lakh.
The vans, inspired by a successful model being run by AIIMS Delhi, would be visiting the drug addicts in the district four times a week, starting Tuesday, and provide medicines—primarily buprenorphine and naloxone—after the assessment by psychiatrists.
"The lockdown is blessing in disguise for Punjab as it has pushed addicts out of closet and given us the highest number of registrations in recent times. We wish to help out everybody, but the clinics have their limitations. We, however, want to ensure nobody is left out so we are sending teams to their doorstep and giving medicine. The move will be a milestone in the state's de-addiction drive," Dr. Sandeep Bhola, nodal officer, mental health and de-addiction centers of Kapurthala, told THE WEEK.
With this initiative, the district has found a perfect way to put to use government vehicles lying around unused during the lockdown period.
"With sudden rush, social distancing is challenge at these centres and we want to take no risk. So, to keep patients safe at home, we not only started giving dosage for 21 days to those registered earlier, but will also be reaching out to post-lockdown registrations through these vans. As of now, it will operate four times a week and the schedule will be revised as per response," said Kapurthala deputy commissioner Deepti Uppal.
Kapurthala has nine government and three private de-addiction/OOAT centres, while the state has 198 OOAT clinics, 35 government de-addiction centres and 108 licensed private de-addiction centres. Based on response, the plan is to implement the de-addiction on wheels strategy across the state.