Cabinet releases case for mental health facility

Cabinet agreed recently on the case for a new long-term mental health facility. Government will put the next step, an outline business case for the facility, out for tender later this month.

Cayman currently has an average of 15 to 20 people hospitalized in overseas mental health facilities, primarily in Jamaica, for long-term treatment of severe psychiatric illnesses, according to the strategic outline case released this week. The outline case states there has been a need for a residential facility since the 1990s.

“This need has become increasingly urgent as the government continues to spend large amounts of money for overseas care of these patients,” the Cabinet case notes.

Mental Health Commission chair Dr. Marc Lockhart, in a recent interview, said progress has been slow in making a mental health facility a reality. But he pointed to legal changes such as the Mental Health Law and the drug and mental health courts to help protect people with mental illness as progress in mental health reform for Cayman. “If we’re a ship, we need all hands on deck,” he said.

“We need to speed up the process,” Dr. Lockhart said.

“We need to work across ministries,” he said, to bring the different pieces together for a residential mental health facility.

If the tender process goes according to schedule, government hopes to have an outline business case ready for public consultation in March 2016.

So far, the mental health facility project is not in the budget for the coming fiscal year, the report states.

Twenty percent of social services in Cayman go to people with mental illness, Dr. Lockhart said, and this facility would take the most severely affected people out of the social services system and give them appropriate care.

The strategic case states: “A long-term residential mental health facility will remove patients from the streets, thereby reducing the likelihood of them committing any criminal or antisocial acts; families will get relief and respite from the burden of taking care of their loved ones.”

A local facility would allow severely ill patients to stay near their families instead of going to Jamaica. The case calls for full-time care, vocational and social training, and developing independent living skills so patients can leave the long-term facility to lead a stable life.

The report notes that the lack of mental health facilities puts additional burden on the police and social services. “The absence of such a facility represents a significant gap,” it states.

Cayman has eight beds available for adult mental health patients at the Cayman Islands Hospital, but no beds for children or adolescents. Dr. Lockhart said the hope is the beds in the hospital will open up for children who need in-patient mental health care when the new facility can start accepting patients.