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Minister of Health, John Junor, has said there should be no fallout from the closure of the Bellevue hospital, as the vast majority of persons with mental disorders could be treated successfully in a community environment.
“What we need is the commitment of families and the society, to remove the stigma from mental illness that will not force such people out on to the streets, but where they can get the love, attention, and follow-up in their homes, where they are supposed to be,” he said.
Minister Junor was responding to a comment from Opposition Spokesman on Health, Dr. Ken Baugh, at Tuesday’s (Feb.7) sitting of the House of Representatives, where Dr. Baugh argued that the closure of Bellevue was “irrational” since no arrangements had been made to properly equip secondary health care facilities to deal with persons suffering from mental disorders.
Mr. Baugh was contributing to the debate on amendments to the Criminal Justice Administration Act, and its companion measure, the Legal Aid (Amendment) Act, which makes special provisions for the treatment of those suffering from mental disorders, who come in conflict with the law, and as a consequence, entered the criminal justice system. Both pieces of legislation were later passed in the House.
According to the Health Minister, the de-institutionalization of mental health care, inclusive of the eventual closure of Bellevue, was not a “one shot or a unifocal mental health programme that we are engaged in,” noting that, the government’s policy recognized the fact that the achievement of successful community-based mental health programme was a process, which could not be achieved overnight.
Mr. Junor noted that Bellevue was over 100 years old and that the facilities were “medieval”. He informed that new wards had been constructed to deal with critical patients and the facility now accommodated more than 900 patients, 500 of whom had no place in a mental institution. “Many are burnt out schizophrenics.they need care and attention in circumstances that would resemble infirmary type care,” he said, noting that almost double the number of psychiatric cases treated at Bellevue, were being treated at regional centres.
“In acute mental health circumstances, you may need to hold a patient for a period of six to seven days.we recognize that you have to train more mental health personnel as well as psychiatrists to operate a community psychiatric programme, and that is in progress,” Mr. Junor told Parliament.
He said all the expert evidence indicated full support for the policy that the Ministry was embarking on. “There is the recognition that there are different levels of care.of course there is a need for secure facilities that speak to the criminally insane.there is a need for supervised living arrangements as would be in a half-way house type of arrangement, and indeed those will be established,” he stated.
Mr. Junor assured that he would shortly table the Mental Health Policy, so that, “all the members and the wider public can judge for themselves, whether or not this is a humane and right policy”.

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