New Mental Health Centre Opens in Greater Portmore


A new mental health centre, complete with three consultation rooms and a waiting area, was officially opened on May 28 in Greater Portmore, St. Catherine.
The only facility of its kind in the community, it was constructed with the assistance of the United States of America military, under its project, Beyond The Horizon.
Speaking at the handing-over ceremony, Director of Emergency, Disaster Management and Special Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Marion Bullock Ducasse, expressed gratitude to the United States servicemen, who spent the last 10 weeks working on the health centre.

Director of Emergency, Disaster Management and Special Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Marion Bullock Ducasse (middle), turns the knob to open the new Greater Portmore Mental Health Centre on May 28. Others (from left) are: St. Catherine Health Services Manager, Godfrey Boyd and Chairman of the Board of the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA), Tanny Shirley.

Dr. Bullock Ducasse said construction of the facility and renovation of the existing Greater Portmore Health Centre by the servicemen was a timely gesture, as it underscores the Government’s drive to renew primary health centre services. Against the background that public hospitals currently face an 88 per cent self-referral rate, some 60 per cent of these patients could be seen at health centres.
“We have committed to rehabilitate 156 health centres across the island, to ensure that persons have access to health facilities at the level of their community and also to ease the burden, which is placed on our public hospitals,” Dr. Bullock Ducasse said.
St. Catherine Health Services Manager, Godfrey Boyd, told JIS News that Portmore, home to some 300,000 people, was in dire need of a mental health centre. Prior to this facility, those suffering from mental illnesses were attended to at the neighbouring Greater Portmore Health Centre, where curative services are offered. The newly-built centre will now house the parish’s mental illness specialist, including a psychiatrist and a psychologist.

Director of Emergency, Disaster Management and Special Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Marion Bullock Ducasse (left), is guided on a tour of the newly-built Greater Portmore Mental Health Centre, by St. Catherine Health Services Manager, Godfrey Boyd. The centre was officially opened on May 28. Also on the tour are: Chairman of the Board of the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA), Tanny Shirley (second right), and United States of America Navy Chief, Antonio Sehibeci.

“This facility that was built under the Beyond the Horizon 2009 project will come in handy for us to serve our patients,” Mr. Boyd informed.
St. Catherine Medical Officer of Health, Francia Prosper Cheng, further informed that mental health is of importance in the community, as 2,132 mentally ill patients were seen during 2008 at the Greater Portmore Health Centre. Already, between January and March this year, more than 500 mental patients have sought assistance.
“This facility is particularly important to us, in that, our mental health services are a little crippled due to lack of space, (and) lack of staff, and with a facility like this, at least now we can say we are putting some emphasis on mental health,” she asserted.
In terms of renovation work to the Greater Portmore Health Centre, the US servicemen assisted with the repainting of the structure, landscaping of the grounds, repairing the roof and other infrastructural works.
Mr. Boyd said the renovation work was essential as with the abolition of hospital user fees, a 25 per cent increase in patient visitation is expected. Last year more than 21,000 persons were served at the health centre.
Beyond the Horizon is a US Southern Command initiative that includes humanitarian and civic assistance projects, as well as construction and renovation projects, designed to promote co-operation between the United States and Jamaica.
The US Southern Command has collaborated with various entities, including the Jamaica Defence Force, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Ministry of Health and Environment, and the Ministry of Education. Various projects were undertaken, including health fairs in St. Thomas, St. James and St. Ann; and renovation works of the Yallahs Clinic, Bull Bay All-Age and Horizon Park Primary Schools.

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