DURBAN – The Durban Covid-19 Withdrawal Management Programme, at the Moses Mabhida and Albert Park homeless shelters, is currently being run to assist homeless people struggling with drug withdrawals during lockdown.
Supported by various NGOs, the team at the helm consists of Durban University of Technology (DUT) Professor Monique Marks, Michael Wilson: a health specialist from Advance Access & Delivery (AAD) and a private psychiatrist, Dr Shaquir Salduker.
According to Marks the programme has assisted in minimising the number of people attempting to leave the shelters and lowering the risk of Covid-19 being spread on the streets.
While the majority of the 260 people in the Moses Mabhida shelter are recovering from an addiction to Whoonga, a form of heroin, 80 have chosen to take part in the programme that offers methadone to those in recovery. Methadone helps to keep the brain functioning and prevent physical withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, sweating and seizures.
“Without a proper mechanism for managing homeless people who use drugs, they would try to escape the safe spaces in search of drugs. This was an issue that had to be dealt with in a manner that is compassionate and effective.The programme was implemented after we considered that a large number of homeless people placed in the shelters during lockdown would be cut off from their drug supplies and would go into forced withdrawal,” said Marks.
A medical team led by Durban psychiatrist Dr Salduker, was created to offer a medical response to the homeless people. It included three registered private nurses and four social workers from the Anti-Drug Forum in Chatsworth.
“This programme is being run clinically by the highest standard of care. We’ve been intentional about forming a comprehensive team to address as many needs as we can. Beyond the methadone programme, the lockdown has provided an opportunity for the homeless to access healthcare,” said Salduker.
“People on the programme have the opportunity to participate in psycho-social groups and in individual sessions with counsellors and social workers. Together with the Department of Social Development, plans are underway to reintegrate those who wish to go home, with their families,” added Marks.
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