Drug schemes face cash axe

DRUG treatment programmes could lose their funding, depending on the results of a review which was announced yesterday. The proposal is contained in a report on a drugs summit held in the territory three months ago.

'If you fund a particular programme that's receiving funds but cannot get people to enter that programme, it would make sense to redirect the funding,' said Commissioner for Narcotics Alasdair Sinclair.

'We hope to get an independent adviser to look into the effectiveness of programmes. It is possible that agencies might be apprehensive of the purpose of the study,' he said.

Performance would be measured in terms of certain indicators, he added, citing freedom from drugs, improvements in health and reduction in criminality as examples.

Another proposal in the report, written by the Action Committee Against Narcotics, was that money confiscated from drug traffickers be used to fight drugs.

Governor Chris Patten, who was handed the report yesterday, said funding for anti-drug programmes was being considered.

Although no figure was mentioned, he said there would be an increase in the $30 million package announced at the end of the drugs summit.

The proposed study of treatment programmes was welcomed by William Tang Chi-yin, superintendent of social services at the Society for the Rehabilitation of Drug Abusers (SARDA).

But he warned that it should not be carried out to prove which programme is the best performer.

'Each programme is unique and I would hope that through this study we can learn more about which patients and treatments match.

'I think through this study we may get some valuable information about types of programmes appropriate for different people.' Assessment must be fair or the study is pointless, according to Jacob Lam Hay-sing, director of the Christian Zheng Sheng Association.

'I think this review is a very good idea, but the assessment must be fair, and it's important to know how they will set a standard.

'I would welcome any moves which would encourage the Government to give funding to popular treatment programmes. At the moment, SARDA has money from the Government, over $50 million a year but religious organisations can't get a buck out of the Government.

He said his association was overflowing with people seeking help.

'We have a centre on Lantau Island we desperately need money for. All the windows are broken and 20 people have to share a toilet.' The centre catered for teenagers under 18. The youngest was 14. All were under probation orders.

Weymond Fong, assistant director of the St Stephen's Society, also welcomed the study, as long as it was not intrusive.

'I would be interested to know their methods, but think it is a good idea in general,' he said.