SINGAPORE - Former drug addicts will get a bigger helping hand from the Government and community organisations to find jobs and reintegrate into society amid the Covid-19 pandemic, said Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.
Efforts to prevent drug abuse and spread awareness of the harmful effects of drugs in the community, particularly among youth, will also be stepped up, he added.
Speaking during a visit to Jamiyah Halfway House on Thursday (Sept 17), Associate Professor Faishal said rehabilitation and employment of former addicts were key planks in preventing addicts from relapsing.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has affected many lives, and this includes our ex-offenders who have gone through the rehabilitation process. One of the key things they look out for is jobs, and despite the challenges, we want to provide job opportunities for our ex-inmates," said Prof Faishal.
"We recognise that it may not be easy. We are working with our operators and partners to see how they are able to provide support during this period, and at the same time, see how (ex-offenders) can be connected with community organisations where, despite not being able to get a job, they are still able to get social support," he added.
On its part, Jamiyah Halfway House is turning to new and creative methods of helping former addicts stay on the right track. One such initiative is mural painting, an extension of the centre's art therapy programme.
Unlike the art therapy programme where the residents paint on standard-size paper, the new mural painting activity allows residents to use the walls of the halfway house as their canvas. Painting the first mural was undertaken in August this year by seven residents from the halfway house.
The aim of the creative rehabilitation techniques is to assist residents in using art as a coping mechanism to oppose, and eventually overcome, their drug addiction, said Jamiyah Halfway House head Faizal Abas.
Mr Faizal added that the halfway house also has plans to launch a music therapy programme by early next year.
The halfway house said it will work closely with government agencies and community partners to fund and support the art therapy and music therapy programmes in the future.
Jamiyah Halfway House was formerly known as the Clementi Drug Rehabilitation Centre. In 1995, the Singapore Prison Service handed it over to Muslim voluntary welfare group Jamiyah Singapore. It was renovated and renamed Jamiyah Halfway House or Darul Islah, opening its doors in 1996.
The centre currently houses 75 recovering drug addicts who are serving the tail end of their sentences.
The weekly art therapy programme has proved popular with residents, with about 60 of them participating.
One resident, who asked not to be named, said it has boosted his confidence and given him a chance to get to know his peers.
The 30-year-old who was sentenced for drug-related offences in March last year joined the halfway house two months ago.
He said: "During the process of completing the mural, there was teamwork and communication. We learnt how to share ideas and we learnt how to be patient. These qualities are hard to cultivate for us and we can apply this to the community outside as well.
"It is not just about the painting and the art. It helps us with our sense of self awareness."