Aiming to enhance the quality of drug rehabilitation services, for the first time, Bangladesh's government will provide grants to private drug rehabilitation centres across the country.
Moreover, the government has also taken initiatives to increase the number of private drug rehabilitation centres, said officials from the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC).
Government officials, as well as health professionals, believe the number of rehabilitation facilities in the country is inadequate in proportion to the number of drug abusers.
Though there are no official statistics on drug addicts in the country, the DNC officials told The Business Standard they estimate there are approximately 70 lakh addicts in Bangladesh.
SM Zakir Hossain, director (Treatment and Rehabilitation), Department of Narcotics Control said that a total of Tk1 crore was allocated for grants in the 2019-20 financial year.
"A total of 91 private rehabilitation centers will receive grants this year," he said.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan will hand over the grants to the owners of the private rehabilitation centres at a programme at the ministry on Monday.
Recently, the department asked for applications from rehabilitation centres across the country. About 94 private drug rehabilitation centres applied for the grants.
After scrutiny, 91 of them were selected to receive the grants, said the officials. The highest grant amount for this year is Tk200,000 and the lowest is Tk50,000.
"The grants are being given to those who are running the business abiding by DNC rules, providing satisfactory treatment for patients and participating in anti-drug campaigns," SM Zakir Hossain said.
"The government has inadequate facilities for drug rehab centres and the country has only four government rehabilitation centres in four divisional headquarters," said the DNC official.
According to DNC data, 329 private rehabilitation centres are operational across the country with the capacity to accommodate 4,153 people suffering from addiction. Dhaka district has the maximum number of those clinics – 119.
The largest government treatment centre, the Central Treatment Center, is in Tejgaon. It has only 124 beds and of those, 90 are for men, 24 are for women and 10 are for children.
Chattogram, Rajshahi and Khulna have three 25-bed rehabilitation centres.
One-third of the districts of the country lack both public and private drug rehabilitation facilities.
There are no rehabilitation facilities in 23 districts – including Meherpur, Panchagarh and Kurigram.
Arup Ratan Choudhury, founder and president of the Association for the Prevention of Drug Abuse, told The Business Standard that the government's initiative is good and should make private rehab centres accountable.
"There are many private rehab centres which do not abide by rules and regulations. When grants are available, centres will abide by the rules to get them," said Arup Ratan Choudhury.