Govt signs MoU to setup helpline for drug addicts

By Staff Reporter
Friday – December 11, 2020
ISLAMABAD: The narcotics control ministry signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), Thursday, with Sehat Kahani (SK) — an electronic health clinic network — to setup a telemedicine helpline under pilot project Umang for individuals who get addicted and need help to connect to counsellors, psychiatrists and psychologists.

According to a press release, narcotics control minister (NCM) Muhammad Azam Khan Swati witnessed the MoU signing ceremony.

Umang will give youth access to mental health counselling, referrals free of cost through a helpline, will be free for three months, is expected to be active in the first week of January 2021.

Under the initiative, SK will provide free of cost, confidential and easily accessible mental health counselling services through a dedicated 24 hours’ Umang helpline to the youth to help them reduce indulgence in excessive smoking and/or drug addiction, to create awareness around issues of addiction through a digital awareness campaign.

The helpline service will be end-to-end encrypted, will allow the caller to connect with SK’s mental health experts in less than a minute in total anonymity and maintain confidentiality.

“The narcotics control ministry envisions a healthier and productive nation, free from the menace of illicit drug usage, trafficking and manufacturing” adding “Umang is a step towards that vision,” NCM Swati said.

He said his ministry is geared towards eradicating the menace of drug addiction from our society and save the youth from evil.

SK chief executive officer (CEO) Sara Saeed Khurram said drug users avoid seeking help due to fear of stigmatisation, the helpline and mobile application will ensure anonymity and ease of accessibility, will help in tackling the problem.

SK chief operating officer (COO) Iffat Zafar Aga said there are limited number of mental health experts countrywide, the service will make the mental health experts accessible to every citizen.

Along with the helpline, Umang will create a 360-degree awareness campaign using digital and non-digital mediums to help students recognise the value of their lives, their future, the worth of their contribution to future of Pakistan and how drugs can take away that dream.

The slogan will be: “choose Pakistan - say no to drugs.”

NCM Swati said that his ministry is committed to its mission to act now using technology and innovations as its strength.

SK is a leading health tech social enterprise that connects patients in need of health care to an online network of 1,500 doctors using telemedicine based solution in the form of web/mobile based application and supporting helpline.

The narcotics control secretary Shoaib Dastgir along-with senior officials of narcotics control ministry were present during signing of the MoU.