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A total of 109,854 clients were seen by the Health Ministry's mental health team last year, including  persons at health centres, hospitals and in communities, as the Government continues to strengthen the delivery of its mental health programme.

This was revealed by portfolio Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, as he addressed the handing over ceremony for vehicles to the various health authorities, at the Ministry’s headquarters in Kingston, on May 30. Four of the eight buses will be used to carry out mental health services in the regions.

“In 2011, approximately 18,000 adults and 3,000 children/adolescents were seen (in communities) by the community mental health team across the island,” he said.

He noted that in addition, 8,293 visits were made to clients’ homes to ensure their treatment was maintained, and that 2,844 crises/psychiatric emergencies were responded to by direct contact.

The Minister said the vehicles should greatly assist the community mental health team as they will be used for home visits and any emergencies that may arise.

He noted that transportation dedicated to mental health services, “facilitates prompt response to crises, psychiatric emergencies and effective home visitation to remote or rugged areas of the country, in order to assess and treat non compliant or difficult clients or those who have physical or financial difficulties."

“Provision of these services prevents hospitalisation of some clients and prevents the development of more difficult or unmanageable situations,” he added.

Dr. Ferguson further noted that provision of the vehicles to enhance the mobility of the mental health team, is critical to the on-going development of the community mental health services, which are provided in all health regions. He added that this is also important as mental health has been identified by the Ministry as a priority programme in keeping with mandate of the World Health Organisation /Pan American Health Organisation (WHO/PAHO).

The remaining four buses will be used to strengthen the Ministry’s vector control programme, as “much of the work that has to be done, in terms of vector control, takes place in the field,” the Minister said.

Valued at $20 million, the eight buses were handed over to the Board Chairmen of the authorities. The South East Regional Health Authority has received two buses to carry out its mental health services; the Southern Regional Health Authority and the North East Regional Health Authority received two vehicles each,  to assist with carrying out both mental health and vector control programmes;  and the Western Regional Health Authority and the Ministry of Health received one bus each to aid in the vector control programme.

The vehicles were purchased through funding by the National Health Fund (NHF). Chairman of the NHF, Sterling Soares, said that since its inception, the Fund has purchased approximately 70 vehicles for various divisions of work in the Ministry of Health, adding that “financing by the NHF has therefore contributed to the continued improvement of healthcare in Jamaica."

He said the four buses purchased for the mental health services in particular, “will go a long way to help overcome some of the challenges associated with treating the mentally ill in our communities. These vehicles will also be retrofitted with equipment for treating psychotic patients, so that these emergencies will be dealt with in a timely and safe manner for all parties."

By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter