By Warda Sylvester
A world-class drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre is opening its doors to poor addicts in the Western Cape.
Akron House, a division of the well-known Harmony Addictions Clinic in Hout Bay, is offering FREE treatment to addicts who cannot afford it.
But to gain access to this private facility, addicts must show a certain level of commitment - by first completing a detox programme at a State health institution.
This is very good news to people in a province devastated by drugs - where 300 000 people are reportedly addicted to tik in Cape Town alone.
Premier Helen Zille has called for a collective fight against drugs.
She has stated that addiction is the biggest social crisis that Cape Town faces.
At least 80 percent of crime in this city is somehow linked to drug and substance abuse.
Steven Thomson, director of the Harmony Group, has had lots of success with sponsoring poor tik addicts at the Harmony Addictions Clinic in Hout Bay and the spill-over can now be treated at the refurbished Akron House, situated in Noordhoek.
Last year, 115 sponsored addicts were treated at the Hout Bay facility.
Steven says Akron House is a labour of love.
"Akron was founded about five years ago," he says.
"It was set up as a dream and a commitment - to give care to the previously disadvantaged people who cannot afford the astronomical fees of private rehab centres."
But because of the lengthy registration and licensing process, Akron House could not operate as it was supposed to.
By the time Steven became involved, the facility had no patients, was heavily in debt and was on the verge of closing down.
The Harmony Foundation, a non-profit organisation, bought over Akron House.
"I wanted to continue the dream so people in poor communities can get treatment," Steven says.
"We get no funding from government or corporate companies.
"The profit we generate at Harmony allows us to sponsor clients at Akron.
"So Akron depends on Harmony for its survival.
"We sponsor a lot of patients at Harmony.
"We are on 80 already this year and we get very good results.
"We would love for government and corporates to become involved.
"The more funds we get, the more beds we can sponsor."
Recently, Akron house was extended with eight beds in a new wing, which was sponsored by the Freemasons.
Steven says the clients sponsored at Akron are typical tik addicts with a family history of drug and alcohol abuse, who are unemployed and poorly educated.
"A lot of treatment facilities have written work and lectures in their treatment," he says.
"This makes it difficult for people who have different educational abilities.
"We have to accommodate that.
"We do a lot more hands-on, one-on-one work.
"Some of these fancy facilities do have free beds, but they won't give it to an ex-prisoner with tattoos on his face and no education."
Harmony House prides itself on being fully inclusive.
"No one is turned away - if you want help, we will give it," Steven says.
"But it's not as simple as just getting a free bed.
"We need a certain level of commitment.
"All our candidates are screened by Sanca and the
Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre.
"We used to get parents bringing in their kids, but they didn't really want to be here.
"So we've learnt our lesson and that's why we use these agencies."
The free Akron programme, which includes accommodation, food and treatment by trained professionals, amounts to about R30 000 per patient.
Clients go through an internationally recognised 28-day programme, based on the 12-step Minnesota Model of Addiction Treatment, which includes counselling, workshops and support mechanisms to prevent a relapse.
"The 12-step treatment is a plan for living," Steven says. - Daily Voice