HCMC's NA reps seek old powers to send addicts to rehab

By Dinh Phu, Thanh Nien News

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Drug addicts crouch on a Ho Chi Minh City street. Photo: Dinh Phu Drug addicts crouch on a Ho Chi Minh City street. Photo: Dinh Phu

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Ho Chi Minh City lawmakers have called on the National Assembly to empower the municipal authorities to send drug addicts to rehabilitation centers instead of waiting for approval from relevant agencies and courts. 
Under a national law that went into effect this year, drug addicts may only be sent to rehab centers after a court order has been issued.
That court order can only be issued after the addict in question has failed to kick their habit during a probationary period of three to six months. Local authorities are currently responsible for monitoring these addicts during those periods. 
During a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on October 6, Phan Anh Minh, deputy head of HCMC Police Department, said there are currently more than 19,000 drug addicts in the city -- a figure that was just 12,000, last year. 
None of the new addicts have been sent to rehab this year, according to Minh, due to complicated new procedural requirements. 
According to the Law on the Settlement of Administrative Violations that went into effect on January 1, drug addicts can only be forced into a rehab centers after a prolonged evaluative process that requires input from healthcare workers, police and labor agencies.
The final decision is supposed to be made by a court. 
The law was designed to prevent abuse of power and protect the rights of the addicts.
In practice, they have been fraught with complicated procedural Catch-22s. 
For instance, any involved healthcare center must possess a special certificate granted by the government to institutions that afford drug addicts full rights. So far, not a single healthcare center in Ho Chi Minh City has been issued such a certificate, according to Minh. 
Since HCMC’s drug addicts haven't been sent to rehab centers, many have formed street gangs and committed criminal offences, according to the municipal police. 
Last week, Ho Chi Minh City's representatives to the National Assembly requested the power to remand drug addicts to rehab centers without awaiting instructions from higher authorities. 
According to the lawmakers, as soon as a person tests positive for drugs, he/she should be taken to a rehab center to detox and receive a psychological evaluation. 
In its proposal, the delegation also asked the NA to adopt a resolution to allow the city to implement its own trial protocol for handling drug addicts. 
Based on their results, lawmakers may consider amendments to relevant laws in the future, it said. 
On Friday, the NA’s Legal Committee and other agencies convened a meeting to discuss the proposals put forward by the Ho Chi Minh City delegation. 
Dang Dinh Luyen, deputy head of the committee, said the NA’s Committee on Social Affairs will further discuss the proposals later this week.

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