Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, has called on private sector stakeholders to partner with the government in implementing an expanded programme of community-based care and intervention for the society’s mentally challenged.
Speaking while on a tour of the island’s sole institution for the mentally challenged, Bellevue Hospital, in East Kingston, on January 31, Dr. Ferguson said the administration will need to explore expanding community-based mental health care.
He posited this view against the background of restructuring, which he said will have to be undertaken at Bellevue to address “serious structural challenges” identified there, as well as concerns raised in media reports about the quality of services offered to clients.
“I am of the view that we have come to a point now, where we have to look at community-based care (for the mentally challenged). The whole idea is not to keep the institution (in a state), where the retention of chronic patients become the norm or it becomes an infirmary. Our idea is to rehabilitate them, to get people back with their families and friends, and to keep the system going,” he argued.
Urging private sector input, Dr. Ferguson said this is a good opportunity for private/public partnership. “We have good corporate citizens out there (who) I believe would come to the table at this time and lend support,” he said.
“I look forward, as Minister, to engage corporate Jamaica in a discussion about the health sector. But I believe that Bellevue, in particular, deserves the attention,” he added, while inviting them to consider adopting wards at Bellevue.
The Minister had earlier visited the Open Arms Drop In Centre at the facility, and the Ken Royes Rehabilitation Centre in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, which rehabilitate patients deemed capable of interacting with the wider society while undergoing treatment, before they are fully returned to live normal lives, and noted the success there.
Dr. Ferguson said based on the provisions at the Open Arms and Ken Royes Centres, he was satisfied with the policy direction, for community-based mental health care. “I am looking forward to that kind of institutional arrangement in going forward with mental health in Jamaica,” the Minister added.
By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter