The cases of substance abuse and dependency are rising in Kenya, which is a worrying development that needs urgent attention. With the government response not swift enough, this provides an opportunity for investors to set up private care facilities, according to Margaret Komen, CEO of Mace Foods Kenya.
“There is little support infrastructure in place. We have many young people falling victim to drug and alcohol abuse who cannot get help. Not because their families do not have money, but because there are few available facilities,” she says.
Komen and her family started a small rehabilitation centre in Uasin Gishu County in Kenya in 2018 and feels there is space in the sector for further development and investment.
Research published in The Lancet states there is one psychiatrist for every 500,000 people in the country. The Kenyan Ministry of Health has released guidelines for the continuity of substance abuse disorder care during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the percentage of healthcare facilities that do offer mental health services is less than 1%.
According to Komen, there is still no proper legislative framework that allows for these centres to be well structured and supported within the larger healthcare system of the country.
“As yet, there is no legislation in place for rehabilitation centres to be classified as healthcare facilities in order to benefit from the National Hospital Insurance Fund,” she explains. “This locks out a lot of people and could be a hindrance to investment. Without the legislative framework, it is a bit more risky.” But it is a risk she believes will pay off.
From a regulatory perspective, the legislation has been in front of parliament for some time and organisations such as the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) has been established via government executive order.
“Even if it takes time before these centres are eligible under the National Hospital Insurance Fund, there are many individuals who can afford this care in a private capacity if it is offered. The possible revenue that can be generated from such business is substantial,” Komen adds.
In its continuity of care guidelines, the Kenyan Ministry of Health admits that Covid-19 will further aggravate the substance dependency situation in the country.
“As new measures and impacts are introduced, especially quarantine, its (Covid-19) effects on many people’s usual activities, levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use, and self-harm or suicidal behaviour may rise,” the document states.
Komen believes the available help for those who do fall into addiction is not sufficient. “It’s a shame. This is a business idea that should be taken seriously.”