“Accompanying drug dependents on their journey to recovery is a ‘long and tedious process’,” said a worker involved with the Municipality of Hamtic’s community-based rehabilitation program for drug surrenderers who are on the watchlist under "Oplan Tokhang" -- a nationwide anti-illegal drugs law enforcement project.

“We just cannot leave them after the therapy plan or they might have a relapse,” said P/Insp. Josefo L. Dime, focal person of “Exodus to Recovery” - a community-based rehabilitation program that was initiated by the Municipality of Hamtic to respond to the big volume of surrenderers in the wake of Tokhang.

He said that “Exodus to Recovery” is a project of the Municipality of Hamtic and Hamtic PNP, means “freedom from slavery” that refers to the community approach in providing therapeutic treatment to substance users.

Dime said that during the launch of the project in March, Hon. Julius Ronald Pacificador, the Mayor and the brains of this this project, had envisioned a “community of homes of hope ready to welcome and accompany recovering substance users towards their hope for fullness of life.”

“As the Municipality’s program of pastoral care for substance users its foremost service is as a faith-based driven, family oriented, community-based rehabilitation (CBR) program,” he said.

Dime jointly supervises the project with Hon. Junjun Pacificador who also takes care of operational matters. The two are also among those who volunteered as technical staff and recovery coaches for the project.

These volunteers that included a parapsychologist, nurse, church workers and a former substance user who has been “clean” for several years now.

“TheMunicipal Health Office and Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils or BADAC did the big job of getting the list of screened and assessed substance users who voluntarily surrendered to the police during the Tokhang operations,” said Dime.

Hhe said the barangay captains had coordinated with the families and substance users, particularly those deemed as “mild” and “moderate” cases, to participate in Exodus to Recovery.

There were 100+ substance users from the Municipality who consented to be part of the project.

They were mostly from the low-income informal sector group, earning daily wages as a construction worker, junk collector and other odd jobs with a number who are jobless. Most of them were male and heads of families with ages ranging from 17 to 70 years old.

Dime said that the substance users were promised confidentiality in the stories they would share in the therapy sessions that follow the treatment plan.

“A supervising coach is aided by two facilitators in handling a group of around eight to ten substance users who undergo recovery sessions 6 times a week with each session stretching for as long as four to five hours,” he said.

Dime said the sessions, which are usually held on 5:00 in the afternoon to 10:00 in the evening are expected to be completed within a month time frame.

He said, among the 100+ from 21 barangays in the Municipality of Hamticis who have initially enlisted in the project, 83 have actually joined the group sessions that started in March. 

“Among the participants from the 21 Barangays, 83 have actually participated (from the 100+ who enlisted) in the therapy sessions and have completed the month-long treatment plan,” he said.

Dime said dealing with the mental health issues of the participant is not an easy process.

She said the individual substance user opens his “wounds” in the therapy sessions while the group members participate in the healing process and hope for a “closure” in the wounds that have been shared.

Even after the substance users have completed the therapy sessions, he added the “after care” is just as important in helping them reintegrate to their families in the communities where there is a strong stigma attached to being a drug user.

He said that they are planning to make the recovery coaches and facilitators from NACPHIL (National Chaplaincy of the Philippines) conduct home visits to find out if the substance users have gained acceptance.

Dime noted that one “positive” outcome which he noticed from one of the participants to the project is that his wife has started talking to him.

“The husband started selling barbecue in the community and was giving his wife his daily earnings,” he said.

More than two months since being involved in Exodus to Recovery, Dime said that they keep on reminding themselves of the project’s mission so they could continue helping the substance users with their journey in the road to recovery.

As first articulated by Hon. Junjun Pacificador during the project launch, this mission is to help the substance users return to the “home where one feels the love of family and friends, and the healing embrace of God’s love.”