Friday, January 19, 2007

Zeng Yan, 21, left, and Nie Yuehua, 38, right, making noodles for lunch at the Yunnan Daytop Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in Kunming.

Kunming almost didn't get a therapeutic drug treatment center, one of less than a handful in China based on an American model that emphasizes peer to peer interaction and counseling. Its first incarnation as a pilot project died after only nine months.

"Some people didn't like that it was an American model. They wanted to call it 'health recovery family' in Chinese. They didn't even want an English name," said Yang Maobin, the director of the center.

Only in 1998, when provincial officials realized that an international therapeutic community conference would be bringing VIPs to Kunming the following year, did they decide the absence of any therapeutic center might be a problem.

American aid organizations had funded various drug rehabilitation and training efforts in Yunnan, and yet "there was no therapeutic community, no treatment, no rehabilitation going on," Yang recalled.

So officials asked him to start up the pilot project again. Without any money.