Chandigarh: The multi-pronged approach adopted aggressively by the state government, coupled with Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s personal appeal to drug addicts and their families, has led to a remarkable increase in footfalls and patients at Punjab’s Outpatient Opioid Assisted Treatment (OOATs) Centres between June and July.

This was disclosed here on Sunday by an official spokesperson, who said the OOATs were witnessing the excellent response to the Chief Minister’s appeal to the people to join the government’s efforts to wipe out the drug menace from the state.

Giving details of the manifold increase, the spokesperson said the average registration in OOATs has increased from 70 new patients per day in June to 408 new patients per day in July. On Saturday, the number of new patients to be registered in OOAT centres was 681.

Further, the average footfall in OOATs has increased from 2345 patients per day (old + new) in June to 4408 patients per day (old + new) in July. On Saturday, the total footfall in OOAT centres (old + new) was 6673.

The number is expected to go up substantially over the next two weeks, and is likely to close July at record levels, said the spokesperson.

While announcing a slew of strong measures to crack down on drug smugglers and peddlers, the Chief Minister has, in the past two weeks, issued a series of appeals through various media to the people to overcome the social stigma attached to drugs and come forward for treatment and cure of their family members affected by drugs. The government’s efforts needed to be supported by the people if Punjab was to achieve its goal of becoming a drug-free state, he has repeatedly stressed.

The Chief Minister has, however, made it clear that he does not favour lynchings or any other form of violence as a means to tackle the drug problem.

Reiterating his appeal to the people today, Captain Amarinder Singh once again urged them not to take the law into their hands but to help the state government and the police & other agencies by providing information that could lead to the arrest of drug smugglers and seizures of drugs and harmful concoctions that were believed to be causing deaths among youth. He also exhorted the victims and their families not to shy away from approaching the de-addiction, treatment and rehabilitation centres for help.

The Chief Minister also reiterated his directives to the police not to harass the victims in any way, and not to enter the centres to question the patients. He also directed the health department to make adequate arrangements to meet this rush, while once again calling for a humane approach to deal with the victims to enable their eventual rehabilitation and integration into the mainstream of the society.