Govt pledges better mental health facilities

Government will dedicate money toward the construction of community based residential care facilities for people needing long-term mental health care, Health Minister Anthony Eden told the Legislative Assembly Thursday.

Mr. Eden was responding to a Private Members Motion brought by Bodden Town MLA Osbourne Bodden on the need for a facility that can care for people needing long-term mental health care.

He did not outline how many facilities will be built or much the project will cost, but said the initiative will be his No. 1 capital works project in the next financial year.

‘We have waited too long for something like this to be put in place,’ he said.

Known as group homes, the facilities Mr. Eden envisages are usually small, residential facilities located within a community, he explained. They are designed to serve both children and adults and usually have six to 15 occupants, with trained care-givers on hand 24 hours a day.

‘Except for adaptive features such as wheelchair ramps, group homes are virtually indistinguishable from other homes in the neighbourhood, thus reducing the stigma in these areas,’ he said.

The motion received the support of opposition MLA Rolston Anglin, who said ‘this will not come cheap but we have to do what we have to do.’

‘We as an opposition have always advocated that we have to protect the vulnerable amongst us. How we look after our elderly and vulnerable really says something about what sort of society we are.’

But he said all the talk about building mental health facilities meant little until the Minister was actually out there cutting the ribbon and opening it.

Mr. Eden said a comprehensive review of mental health services will be required before work can begin on the project. This review will inform the development of a national mental health policy for the Cayman Islands, he added.

The Cayman Islands has no dedicated long-term facility for people that require long-term mental health care. The Cayman Islands Hospital has an in-patient facility for people requiring mental health care, but in the evenings patient must return to their homes.

Those in most desperate need of long-term care have traditionally been sent abroad, to facilities such as the now defunct Bellevue Mental Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica.

Mr. Eden said the group homes would allow the Cayman Islands to bring back Caymanians they have sent overseas for care. Currently there are 12 such people receiving care abroad, he said.

In the same vein that Cayman no longer exports prisoners, Mr. Bodden said it stands to reason that Caymanians should take care of its citizens suffering from mental illness.

‘I’m happy to know that this motion has received the full support of all members,’ he said. ‘I look forward to the day when we can say we no longer send these people overseas for care.’

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