Mental health facility goes to Planning Department

Architectural plans for Cayman’s first residential mental-health retreat, 54 beds in nine cottages on 15 acres in East End, are set to go to the Planning Department this month ahead of a scheduled summer 2018 groundbreaking.

The Ministry of Health announced the move on Thursday after Toronto-based Montgomery Sisam Architects, design specialists in mental health, completed the nearly $900,000 five-month contract in collaboration with Cayman’s DDL Studio architects.

“This is fantastic news,” said Dr. Marc Lockhart, chairman of Cayman’s 10-member Mental Health Commission and long-time activist in support of the project. “It means it’s now tangible, no longer a dream. We finally have a date.

“It’s been a long time,” he said.

Minister of Heath Dwayne Seymour was pleased at the development, echoing Dr. Lockhart, looking forward to bringing home Cayman’s nearly dozen-and-a half expatriated mental health patients.

“I am very happy that the architects have now completed the plans for the design of the facility,” he said. “It is vital that we get it up and running as soon as possible so that we can properly care for our patients in appropriate accommodation.

“Once completed, this facility will allow us to keep our loved ones here instead of having to send them overseas for treatment, which has sometimes meant separating them from their families for years at a time,” Mr. Seymour said.

Because Cayman has no long-term treatment center, patients are often sent to Jamaica or the United States for residential care. Others who cannot be transferred overseas because of visa problems – including criminal convictions – gain only short-term care at an eight-bed facility at the Cayman Islands Hospital, while still others are detained at Northward Prison or are sheltered by family members.

Dr. Lockhart estimates 4,000 people in Cayman are affected with some degree of mental illness, and says “about 16” are in residential treatment in Jamaica. Another handful are scattered in U.S. facilities.

The East End facility, he said Thursday, was a major boost for the entire community, but “especially for people affected” by mental illness, and “especially those in Jamaica. They get to come home.

“It’s not that we didn’t – and don’t – care, but because we simply have nowhere to house them. It’s just that simple,” he said.

A government press release said officials expected “groundbreaking by next summer,” followed by opening “in summer 2019,” a slippage from initial hopes for an end-2017 groundbreaking and an April 2019 opening.

Funded and operated by government, the facility is planned for a 15-acre site – already approved by Cabinet – in the High Rock area of East End. Officials have not announced either construction or operating costs, but a 2016 KPMG study suggested as much as $15 million for the project.

Dr. Lockhart has estimated between $10 million and $15 million to build the facility, and another $1 million in annual operating costs, representing a savings on monthly per-patient fees between $2,000 and $3,000 in Jamaica, and as much as $9,500 per month for U.S.-resident patients – much of it being funded by the Cayman Islands National Insurance Company.

On Thursday, officials declined to name building costs, describing them as “commercially sensitive at this stage,” awaiting what they earlier called a “construction costs consultancy phase.”

The East End center, with the unwieldy moniker “long-term residential mental health facility,” LTRMHF, will comprise nine cottages, each with six beds. When operational, the “LTRMHF” – modeled on the Massachusetts-based, 700-acre Gould Farm – will offer a rural environment and occupational therapy, including gardening, animal husbandry, woodworking, a bakery, cheese-making and a public gift shop.

“The main building and seven of the cottages will likely be developed in the initial phase of construction,” Thursday’s release said, “and the rest built in future as demand dictates.” KPMG’s outline business case suggested at least one cottage might be dedicated to overseas patients as a revenue source.

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