Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, said the Government is looking to undertake a comprehensive reform of the mental health sector, to improve the level of care given to persons with mental illness.
The Minister was speaking at the National Mental Health Officer's Symposium held on August 3 at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston.
He informed that the Ministry will be taking a “fresh look” at a submission that has been before Cabinet since 2007. He gave a commitment that consultations will be carried out before the document is re-submitted to Cabinet for approval.
According to the Health Minister, the mental health officers are treating more than 50,000 patients annually, in addition to the over 1,000 patients seen at the Bellevue Hospital.
Currently, the Government spends about $200 million to provide mental health services at the community level, while “we are spending almost $1.2 billion to keep Bellevue going."
"There has got to be a better balance going forward in terms of equity in dealing with mental health services," Dr. Ferguson said.
He said the goal of the Health Ministry is to transform and equip the Bellevue Hospital and the psychiatric wards of other hospitals into centres that can best care for the mentally ill.
“The goal is to maintain a comprehensive, multi-faceted treatment programme that revolves around continuity of care, group and family therapy, environmental and social support and intervention, community participation, support and control,” Dr. Ferguson stated.
Chief Nursing Officer in the Ministry, Dr. Leila McWhinney-Dehaney, said efforts are being made to address legislation for the care of patients, who are mentally ill and to govern the practice of providers of care.
She commended the Ministry’s mental health team for its continued vigilance in the delivery of care sometimes under very trying circumstances. "As a health sector, we are challenged to reorganise our mental health services to make it truly accessible," she said.
The eight annual National Mental Health Officer’s Symposium is being staged under the theme: ‘Jamaica 50: The Mental Health Journey’. It will outline the strengths and weaknesses of mental health services over the past 50 years and increase awareness about mental health in Jamaica.