SINGAPORE - Technician Zulkifli Atan started smoking in his early teens then moved on to marijuana and eventually heroin.
The 46-year-old is trying to kick the habit and for the past six months he has been attending counselling sessions at the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA)'s Step-Up Centre in Taman Jurong, which began operations in January and was officially opened on Sunday (July 14).
It was set up following the success of SANA's first centre in Sengkang, which opened in 2016 and has since helped more than 1,500 walk-in clients and their family members.
Mr Zulkifli has never missed a session, according to his counsellor, and is making good progress.
"At least I got someone to talk to," he said. "We (ex-offenders) also have to do our part."
The guitarist and singer has even started a band with other clients and teaches them how to play musical instruments as a coping strategy.
The Step-Up Centres provide reintegration programmes and services to ex-drug-abusers, people at risk of drug abuse and their families. The services include peer support counselling and financial and employment assistance, with the centre staffed by both full-time and volunteer counsellors.
All services at the centres are free except for tattoo removal, which is heavily subsidised.
Taman Jurong was selected for the second location as SANA's client profile reflects a sizeable number residing in western and northern Singapore.
Guest of honour Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health, unveiled a plaque to mark the centre's opening on Sunday.
Step Up @ Taman Jurong has seen 89 clients since it opened, including 32 youths, and 11 relatives of drug abusers.
"Step-Up @ Taman Jurong is an excellent model to reach out to ex-drug abusers and their families due to its location and operating hours in the evening," said Mr Abdul Karim, executive director of SANA.
He added that the Taman Jurong centre shares its premises with organisations such as Fei Yue Family Service Centre and the Social Service Office (SSO), which SANA partners with.
SANA client Rahman Abdul Majeed, 42, who lives in Taman Jurong, has been undergoing counselling as well as financial and job assistance.
Although he has won 'best employee' awards in previous jobs, he still faces the stigma of being a former convict.
"Some (employers) cannot trust us," he said.
After the launch ceremony, Mr Amrin also toured the centre and spoke to SANA clients and volunteers before kicking off a futsal tournament for at-risk youth, SANA clients and their families.