Doctors and community leaders are reassuring East End residents about security as Cayman’s first long-term mental health center moves toward an August groundbreaking.
District figures welcomed the 15-acre facility, suggesting it could boost local employment during construction on the planned nine cottages, gardens and administration buildings, which will include kitchens, a dining hall and classrooms.
Scheduled to open in 2019, the residential mental health facility will ultimately house 54 patients and staff on a site at High Rock, near Health City.
Architects have described an electronic “biometric analytic detection” security system, comprising office-based monitors, cameras and buried cables preventing unauthorized departures or illegal entry by outsiders, said Dr. Marc Lockhart, chairman of the Mental Health Commission, longtime advocate for the mentally ill and leader of the East End project.
“It’s far less intrusive, without fences, but a security system that will alert us if someone decides, let’s say, to slip away to visit a girlfriend or something.”
The system will “trigger certain protocols,” he said, alerting staff, “especially if someone is doing it repeatedly,” suggesting the detection technology can identify individual patients.
Dr. Lockhart points out that the network also prevents intruders gaining access to the facility “if someone is coming in, smuggling drugs or trying to steal equipment or do damage.”
Ministry of Health officials said last week that construction would begin in August on the center, designed by Toronto’s Montgomery Sisam Architects in collaboration with Cayman’s DDL Studios and Reed Consulting Engineers.
The Ministry of Health and the Planning Department have set tentative dates for tendering and approvals on the project, forecast to cost between $10 million and $15 million.
“Design approvals throughout the project have been a collective … process whereby the Ministry of Health, along with stakeholders of [the] project, are presented with designs at every milestone,” said the ministry’s Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn.
“Design development has recently been given approval and consultants are now progressing construction documentation for building permit submission/approval and subsequent tender phase,” she added.
The Toronto architects completed design work in early December. Ms. Ahearn said the Ministry of Health submitted a building application in late December and notified nearby landowners.
“Presentation to [Central Planning Authority] is scheduled for Feb. 21,” she said, pointing to the formal procedure for publishing detailed plans and seeking public comment.
Ms. Ahearn said pre-qualification of contractors would start in late May with tenders invited “in June/July 2018.”
She underscored that dates were dates were tentative, “subject to relevant permits and approvals,” but hoped to see tenders closed in mid-July and contracts awarded “by early to mid-August 2018 – subject to Central Tenders Committee approval.”
Construction would begin as quickly as possible, with the first patients admitted in summer 2019.
East End MLA Arden McLean did not respond to repeated efforts at contact.
MLA candidates in 2017’s May elections Isaac Rankine and John McLean both expressed confidence that planners would address any security issues, and hoped to see a boost to local employment.
“I have no concerns at this time about the proposed long-term residential mental-health facility,” Mr. Rankine said. “In fact, it is a long-overdue facility, which will benefit everyone in the Cayman Islands, including the people of East End.”
John McLean was equally sanguine: “I have no problem with the mental-health facility being placed in East End as I have always advocated for more infrastructure in my district that will benefit my East End residents.
“That said from the get-go, all employment that is available should be geared to include the unemployed in one way or another. From the construction stage and whilst the construction is taking place, there should be training of the unemployed … to ensure that they have preference over qualified potential future work-permit holders.
“I would imagine that steps would be put in place to control patients from escaping the facility i.e., alarms, fencing and enough security officers,” Mr. McLean told the Cayman Compass.
Dr. Lockhart moved to allay any long-term concerns. The facility, he said, “is for patients who are not so acute,” but rather need a structured and stable environment aiding treatment and recovery.
“Anyone ‘acting up,’” he said, can be removed from the facility and “placed in hospital or transferred to a better place, another facility.”