Mental health system surveyed

Local health officials are working with the World Health Organization to assess Cayman’s mental health system through an assessment.

A regional consultant for the WHO and the Pan American Health Organization, Devora Kestel, met with the Cayman Islands Mental Health Commission earlier this month to help conduct the “World Health Organization Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems” survey.

“The ministry requested the assistance from PAHO [Pan American Health Organization] having completed a recent revision of the mental health legislation,” said Nancy Barnard, deputy chief officer of the Ministry of Health.

There were some widespread amendments made to the Mental Health law last year aimed at improving the administration of care and safe housing for the mentally ill. The law also permitted the formation of the Mental Health Commission, which is currently tasked with finding a long-term mental health facility for chronic sufferers.

Ms. Barnard said the survey was completed and would provide baseline information that was previously unavailable.

“PAHO’s survey tool, used by numerous other countries, will provide a useful benchmark and the necessary information to assist the Cayman Islands in developing a mental health policy, mental health programs and the necessary community services required to care for our mentally ill persons,” said Ms. Barnard.

She said the data collection process involved interviewing people from various agencies, including the local prisons service, the Ministry of Health, the Mental Health Unit at the Health Services Authority, and outpatient mental health facilities.

Concerns over the treatment of Cayman’s mentally ill were recently raised when an untreated mentally ill female used machetes to smash up a cash register and glass display counter at a George Town coffee shop. The woman appeared in court on Friday and was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

“We realize that the systems that are in place are not sufficient for the numbers. There’s still more to be done. We need a long-term facility,” said chairman of the Mental Health Commission Dr. Marc Lockhart, in an interview in June. He also said the biggest issue of the system was “accessibility as opposed to it being pure costs.”

According to the World Health Organization’s website, “The goal of collecting this information is to improve mental health systems and to provide a baseline for monitoring the change.”

Ms. Barnard said the ministry could not specify when the report would be completed. But she said the next stage would involve the ministry preparing a draft report to be sent to the PAHO/WHO for review and approval.

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