FeaturesPeople Daily

Former priest takes on Kenya’s drug addiction crisis

Milliam Murigi @MillyMur

Tell us about your organisation?

It is an international NGO based in Kenya. I founded it together with Father Francis Kamau in 2005 to train addiction counsellors and provide treatment services, especially to the poor and vulnerable. 

I am a level three certified addiction counsellor and a master trainer in substance abuse prevention. The centre has five pillars: addiction prevention, addiction treatment services, addiction counselling training and research on issues of addictions and HIV/Aids. 

What motivated you to start the organisation?

To start with I was born and bred in Youngstown, Ohio in the USA and I was ordained a catholic priest in 1973. I studied for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology from the Dominican House of Studies in Washington.

While studying for my Doctorate in Ministry at Catholic University, Washington, DC, I had to face my addiction to alcohol, Valium and Zanex.

But from January 18, 1988 I marked my sobriety date and because of this I wanted to be a part of the solution to alcohol and drugs in the black community, who were mostly affected by drugs, not part of the problem.

Dr William Sinkele came to Kenya in 1992.

In 1992 I moved to Kenya as part of the Dominican Fathers who came to Kenya to start  Dominican Fathers-Kenya.  I witnessed the extent of drug abuse in Kenya and this left a lasting impression on me. I was here up to the year 2000.

In 2001, I co-founded Redhill centre, which provides care to patients with addiction before going back to the US for a sabbatical leave after which I decided to leave priesthood in 2002.

In 2003 I worked for Joseph’s House, a HIV/Aids hospice for homeless men in Washington DC where I worked as the assistant director for a year before coming back to Kenya to start Sapta.

What kind of help does your organisation offer drug addicts?

We offer free harm reduction services in Nairobi to those who inject heroin through two programmes: the Global Fund/Red Cross and Centre for Disease Control/ Liverpool Voluntary Counselling and Testing (LVCT) funded projects.

Under the Global Fund programme we have two centres at Pangani and Githurai. We have reached over 2,800 drug addicts, including nearly 400 women. Under the Centre for Disease Control funding we have a centre at Kayole and so far we have reached 900 addicts, but our target is 1,500. 

These centres have three clinical officers and with an outreach programme of 80 outreach workers. The harm reduction programme includes the following: access to free injection needles and equipment; condoms; advice on HIV/AIDs; HIV and Hepatitis C testing; and prevention/addiction counselling services. At the Pangani centre Sapta also offers antiretrovirals for those who are HIV-positive.

Tells us a little bit about the methadone programme…

We also give psychosocial support to our clients to support their access to the daily methadone programmes that are run by the government at the Mathare Hospital and the Ngara Clinic. 

Methadone is a drug used as a pain reliever and as part of drug addiction detoxification and maintenance programmes. It is used to reduce withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin or other narcotic drugs without causing the “high” associated with drug addiction.  

Presently over 400 of our clients are either on methadone or have come off methadone completely and are drug-free.  A great success from this has been that our methadone clients are returning to work, reuniting with their families and have a hopeful attitude toward their future.

One of the main aim of the centre is to train addict counsellors tell us more about this?

Sapta is the only National Association of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counsellors (NAADAC – USA) approved centre in Africa and the only organisation in Kenya offering diploma training in addictions counselling.

We have over 380  diploma graduates with most our students coming from Kenya, though there are graduates and present students from Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Seychelles and South Sudan.

Sapta also offers a 20-day certificate in addiction studies as well as a Trainer Of Trainees on how to train addiction counsellors. We plan to offer our programmes online so as to reach more students outside Nairobi and other parts of Africa. 

Your plan in the next five years?

We want to address three major gaps; finding funding to support income generating projects among drug addicts, to open a women and children’s addiction treatment centre in Nairobi that would be open to women who inject or use drugs and female sex workers who have a moderate to severe alcohol or drug abuse problem and to provide mental health counselling at our three centres. 

Show More

Related Articles