On Friday, Petro announced that he had been granted authorization to the proposal after a meeting with President Juan Manuel Santos. The mayor explained that the constitution provides for the use of illicit drugs in medical treatment, and so he only needed the approval of the national government, as Semana reports.
Petro on Monday proposed using drugs seized by the security forces in this medical treatment, saying “They do it in the United States, here it is a taboo but it isn’t a foreign idea in the world,” reports El Espectador.
The mayor has proposed setting up consumption centers to provide drugs to those who need them as part of their treatment. Petro said that the idea of the proposal was not just to help addicts, but to weaken the power of drug dealers in the city.
As well as his plan for these consumption centers, Petro has also propsed setting up mobile treatment centers to help Bogota’s drug addicts and other vulnerable populations. This is already going ahead -- the first such center was launched on September 16 in the district of the Bronx. The Health Care Center for Drug Addicts (CAMAD) will provide medical, dental, psychological and psychiatric care, and will not hand out illegal drugs, as Bogota Health Secretary Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo explained to El Espectador. It will also administer vaccinations, and help people find housing.
The unit aims to treat some 40 people a day. After spending a short period in the Bronx, it will be moved to San Bernando, and then will rotate between the two neighborhoods, reports El Tiempo. The Health Ministry has invested 2.4 billion pesos ($1.3 million) in the scheme for this year.
Julian Andres Quintero of the Accion Tecnica Social in Bogota explained to the OSI that the mobile centers were originally the brainchild of the Centre for Study and Analysis on Citizen Security (CEACS), but the idea has been toned down in the face of pressure from the media, so that the current model being rolled out will not carry out much intervention in terms of drug use. For addicts, all the mobile units will do is provide psychological care, diagnose other illnesses they are suffering, and sometimes administer drugs like methadone. According to Jaramillo, these mobile units are the first step towards the regulated consumption centers that Petro plans to roll out.
The health secretary said that it is possible that there will be a total of five mobile units by next year. He explained that the next phase will be to set up places where people living on the streets can come to wash, eat, get clean clothes and sleep for a night.
Petro’s schemes have come under opposition from the presidential advisor for Bogota, Gina Parody, who denied on Monday that the government had given permission for the scheme. Jaramillo told El Espectador that Parody was confused about the proposal, and pointed out that, “like most rich people,” she has the resources to send herself to rehab, should it become necessary, or to buy drugs, which is not an option for the poor.
Part of the controversy around the proposals is due to the lack of clear information on them. As Quintero points out, there has been little public debate over the plans to administer illegal drugs to addicts, and no formal planning document from the mayor's office has been made publicly available.
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