Cayman one step closer to mental health facility

Progress continues on the proposal for a long-term residential mental health facility in the Cayman Islands as consulting firm KPMG begins work on the outline business case to explore the feasibility of the project. 

The government announced Monday that it signed a contract with the auditing firm on Oct. 9 after a tendering process that began this summer. 

Cayman Islands psychiatrist Dr. Marc Lockhart, who has advocated for a long-term mental health facility, said he is excited about the progress being made on the project. 

“I do feel very positive about things. I do feel that there’s some light at the end of the tunnel, but we still have to go through the tunnel,” Dr. Lockhart said. “I’m hoping that the interest and the drive continues once the business plan is completed.” 

Mental healthcare practitioners and other stakeholders have long stressed the need for a long-term mental health facility in the Cayman Islands as there are only eight beds available, at the Cayman Islands Hospital, for adult mental health patients, and no beds available for children or adolescents with mental health issues. 

Currently, individuals in need of long-term psychiatric care must be sent to an overseas residential clinic. About 10 to 20 patients require overseas treatment for mental illness annually, and another 10 to 20 patients who need such care are unable to go off-island because of criminal convictions. 

Stakeholders, including members of the Long-term Residential Mental Health Facility Steering Committee, met with representatives of KPMG last week to discuss the challenges that mentally ill patients and their healthcare practitioners face in the absence of a long-term facility, according to a government statement. 

Further stakeholder meetings are planned for November as KPMG continues to gather information for its report. 

Dr. Lockhart, who sits on the steering committee, participated in last week’s meetings. He told KPMG representatives that he believes a therapeutic farm community would be the best approach for long-term mental healthcare in the country. 

A therapeutic farm is a psychiatric facility set on rural or agricultural land where patients can choose to participate in activities that are therapeutic and help to develop skills the patients can use when they return to the larger community. Such activities might include gardening and woodworking. 

“This type of community really has shown to be very constructive in terms of its rehabilitative focus,” Dr. Lockhart said. He also told KPMG representatives that the facility “does not have to be the typical type of government intervention” where the government foots 100 percent of the bill. 

“I actually think that a public-private type approach is the best,” Dr. Lockhart said. “The government could provide maybe some of the land or incentives, and open it up to other private entities, nonprofit or otherwise to be a part of this.” 

In the long term, he said, such a facility might even be a draw for medical tourism. 

KPMG has 90 days to complete the outline business case for the long-term mental health facility. 

Premier Alden McLaughlin, seated between Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn and Kris Beighton for KPMG, at the contract signing with KPMG earlier this month.
Premier Alden McLaughlin, seated between Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn and Kris Beighton for KPMG, at the contract signing with KPMG earlier this month. Standing, from left, are Niasha Brady, Shari Smith, Ashita Shenoy (KPMG), Roy Tatum, Nancy Barnard, Brid Verling (KPMG), Chief Officer Dorine Whittaker, Andrew Hamilton (KPMG) and Janett Flynn.