The Punjab government on Thursday introduced Outpatient Opioid Assisted Treatment (OOAT) project on pilot basis in three districts, for the treatment of drug addicts in the state. Under OOAT, Buprenorphine, an opioid used to treat the opioid addiction, is being provided to addicts in Out Patient Departments (OPDs). In three districts, 26 centres have been opened at various health facilities including rehabilitation centres, and at Community Health Centre(CHC) level. Punjab health department says the model has been started initially in Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Moga districts of the state. OOAT model was suggested by an American drug therapist and consultant, Dr Kanwar Ajit Singh Sidhu.
State’s Health Minister Brahm Mohindra told The India Express on Thursday that the project has been started in three districts only. “We will see how it works and accordingly it would be further extended to other districts after experiencing the results from the three districts,” he said. “We are creating awareness about this new treatment. The department is focusing on the Information Education Communication (IEC) activities about this project so that people would come to know about it.”
He further said that the system has been created in such a way that those coming to the centre don’t face any harassment from anyone. “Patient data shall be kept confidential,” he said. Asked how this treatment is different from the previous available treatment facilities, Punjab health department officials said that earlier treatment was limited to district hospitals and some of the sub-district level hospitals. “Earlier more emphasis was on indoor admissions and OPD based detoxification was not practiced. No actual system of central registration was in place to track a patient,” said an official.
He said that there would be a central registry to avoid duplicity. “Once a patient takes medicine from one OOAT clinic, he won’t be able to take another dose same day from another OOAT clinic,” he said. The official further added that medical officers, counsellors, staff nurses and data entry operators have been trained in all districts for OOAT. Dr Ranbir Singh Rana, in-charge of the government’s Tarn Taran facility, and one of the doctors involved in the project said that a patient has to visit an OOAT centre where he will be registered.
“A medical officer will assess the patient for diagnosis of opioid dependence and then a line of treatment would be decided,” he said.