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LCQ 12: Provision of resources to enhance treatment and rehabilitation work

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by Hon Chan Hak-kan in the Legislative Council today (January 19):


     As the number of drug abusers has increased in recent years, the demand for the services provided by the Counselling Centres for Psychotropic Substance Abusers (Counselling Centres) has become bigger.  Some frontline counsellors have indicated that since the Counselling Centres need to handle a large number of requests for assistance, the problem of shortage of manpower and resources has emerged.  The problem has deteriorated particularly after the Government's introduction of the voluntary Trial Scheme on School Drug Testing in Tai Po District (Trial Scheme), which has prevented the Counselling Centres from further developing other services, e.g. sending staff to boundary control points to reach out to those who go to the Mainland to take drugs.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective numbers of cases seeking assistance received by the 11 existing Counselling Centres in the past three years, and the number of cases which needed to be followed up, as well as the age group and gender of the assistance seekers (set out in table form);

(b) of the number of cases involving Hong Kong residents being arrested on the Mainland for taking drugs that the mainland law enforcement agencies had notified Hong Kong law enforcement agencies in the past three years, the age group and gender of the arrested, in which provinces/municipalities and locations they were arrested, and the penalties imposed by the mainland authorities (set out in table form);

(c) given that quite a number of people choose to take drugs over the weekends and during public holidays, whether the number of students to be tested and the frequency of the tests under the Trial Scheme will be increased after classes resume; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(d) focusing on the problem concerning Hong Kong residents taking drugs in entertainment venues on the Mainland, apart from arranging for government officials and members of the Action Committee Against Narcotics to distribute publicity leaflets at boundary control points on an irregular basis, what specific measures and plans the Government has put in place to assist counselling agencies to launch relevant services; and

(e) how the Government tracks the situations of those who return to Hong Kong after taking drugs on the Mainland, especially those who have already left school, so as to provide them with appropriate counselling and assistance?



     To address the drug problem which has deteriorated in recent years and to help those troubled by the problem to pull themselves out of the drug trap, the Government has substantially increased the provision of resources to enhance treatment and rehabilitation work.

     As far as Counselling Centres for Psychotropic Substance Abusers (Counselling Centres) are concerned, the number increased from the original five to seven in December 2008 and to the current 11 in October 2010, an increase of 120%, with a view to strengthening the community-based drug treatment and rehabilitation services.  Furthermore, all Counselling Centres have been provided with additional resources since October 2009 for the provision of elementary on-site medical support services and enhancement of multi-disciplinary co-operation between the health care and the social service sectors in a bid to render support to those in need in a holistic manner.  Counselling Centres are committed to serving the occasional or habitual psychotropic substance abusers and at-risk youths.  They may prioritise their work having regard to the actual service demand.

     To implement the Trial Scheme on School Drug Testing in Tai Po District (the Scheme), the Government has provided additional resources through the Beat Drugs Fund to the Counselling Centre serving the district to enable it to conduct testing in schools, formulate support programmes for students who are identified, volunteer themselves for help or are referred by other parties and help them get back on the right track through counselling.  We will continue to provide adequate resources to handle cases arising from school drug testing.  The provision of other services on the part of Counselling Centres will not be undermined as a result of the implementation of school drug testing.

     Apart from Counselling Centres, the Government has also provided additional resources to other service units to enhance various types of services to cater for the different needs of the assistance seekers.  These include the District Youth Outreaching Social Work Teams, overnight outreaching teams, drug treatment and rehabilitation centres, substance abuse clinics, psychiatric medical social work services, probation offices, etc.

     Moreover, we will encourage and support non-governmental organisations, schools and various sectors of the community to launch different types of anti-drug programmes through effective use of the Beat Drugs Fund.  We also plan to step up school social work services in all secondary schools by a 20% increase in professional manpower so as to fight the anti-drug war in a focused manner.

     My replies to the questions raised by Hon Chan Hak-kan, in seriatim, are as follows:

(a) The number of cases seeking assistance received by the Counselling Centres in the past three financial years and the number of cases which needed to be followed up are set out in Annex I.

(b) The number of Hong Kong residents arrested in Shenzhen for taking drugs that the Mainland law enforcement agencies had notified Hong Kong law enforcement agencies from 2008 to the third quarter in 2010 are set out in the tables in Annex II.

(c) Under the Scheme, drug testing work is performed by a Student Drug Testing (SDT) team.  A basket of factors, including holidays, class schedules, manpower deployment, differences among schools, etc, has been taken into consideration when designing the testing arrangements.  Except school holidays or the dates on which special activities are held by the schools, the SDT team will conduct visits to different participating schools every day and fully utilise the time slots allowed by such schools to carry out drug testing.  Each of the 23 participating schools will allocate one to two days per month for the school visits with the aim of randomly selecting about 3% to 5% of the participating students for the test.  The dates of drug testing of each school are not pre-determined, so as to enhance randomness and effectiveness.  We hope that with the Scheme, students will maintain constant vigilance and stay away from drugs during both holidays and school days.

(d) In addition to the provision of drug treatment and rehabilitation services, the Counselling Centres also organise anti-drug preventive education and publicity activities.  In 2009-10 and the first two quarters of 2010-11, two Counselling Centres serving Yuen Long and the North District have organised a total of 115 education and publicity programmes, 25 of them addressing the problem of cross-boundary drug abuse, which include arranging staff to boundary control points to reach out to young people travelling to and from the Mainland.

     Apart from Counselling Centres, outreaching teams and other youth organisations are also committed to combating the cross-boundary drug abuse problem.  The enforcement agencies at the boundary control points have been working closely with such organisations to provide assistance.  Specific measures include providing support to the organisations in setting up mobile counters and holding anti-drug exhibitions at the boundary control points to disseminate anti-drug messages and reach out to the cross-boundary travellers in need.  Social workers will provide on-the-spot counselling and follow-up services, anti-drug information, body co-ordination tests, cognitive tests, academic and career counselling services as well as general counselling services to the needy youngsters.  Part of their work is sponsored by the Beat Drugs Fund.  Five projects were involved in the past three years, and an amount of about $1.7 million was granted.

     To enhance the effectiveness of anti-drug efforts, the law enforcement agencies have stepped up publicity at the land boundary control points by displaying anti-drug banners and posters as well as showing anti-drug videos.  Officers of the law enforcement agencies pay greater attention to cross-boundary travellers and will refer appropriate cases to social workers for follow-up where necessary.  The law enforcement agencies will continue to combat cross-boundary drug abuse and trafficking activities in earnest.  In addition to deploying more manpower and drug detector dogs, they have stepped up random checks on young travellers and drug enforcement work at boundary control points with a view to deterring cross-boundary drug trafficking.  Besides, there are frequent exchanges of intelligence with their Mainland counterparts which have also stepped up inspections at entertainment venues and youth drug abuse black spots on the Mainland.

(e) The Counselling Centres and outreaching teams have reached out to occasional or habitual psychotropic substance abusers and youths at risk at boundary control points or in the community, including those who have cross-boundary drug abuse problem, taking into account the actual service needs.  The service units concerned will, having regard to the circumstances of individual cases, provide appropriate counselling and assistance, including case assessments, referrals for drug treatment, individual or group counselling, medical support, etc.

Ends/Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Issued at HKT 15:53


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