Public meeting sheds light on mental health facility

East End residents told patients will not pose threat

Dr. Marc Lockhart discusses the planned mental health care facility with residents in East End. - Photo: Ken Silva

The Ministry of Health held a public meeting at the East End Civic Centre on Wednesday night to discuss the district’s planned mental health facility.

There, government officials shared details about the facility to about 20 East End residents that showed up to the meeting, explaining its necessity and that patients will not pose a safety threat to the nearby community.

Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said that the territory has needed a mental health center for years, as Caymanians suffering with illnesses are currently sent to Jamaica. Once the facility is built – construction is scheduled to break ground around September this year and be completed near the end of 2019 – those patients will be able to return home, he said.

Having had to check his own father into a mental healthcare facility in Jamaica about 20 years ago, Mr. Seymour said the issue is very personal to him.

“Visiting Jamaica, let me tell you, we need this facility,” he said.

One of the main concerns some residents had about the center – which will be built near High Rock – is that patients might escape and pose a threat to the nearby community.

But Dr. Marc Lockhart, the chairman of the Mental Health Commission, said that the long-term mental health facility will not house patients with a history of violence. If any person receiving care there demonstrates a tendency toward violence, he or she will be sent to the George Town inpatient unit, he said.

“The biggest concern is not going to be patients leaving. It’s going to be people coming in to disrupt and steal and destroy,” Dr. Lockhart added. “We’re not passing any aspersions on any community by saying that, but this is the world we live in.”

The Mental Health Commission chairman said security will be on site. And while there will be no fence surrounding the facility, there will be an electronic monitoring system that alerts security when someone crosses the property’s perimeter.

Dr. Lockhart also said the type of care at the facility will be aimed at reintegrating patients back into society with the skills they need to be productive residents.

“There may be a percentage of people who are too ill to be reintegrated, but at least those people will be able to live in dignity,” he said.

The center will also be able to serve as a training ground for University College of the Cayman Islands students who are interested in psychology and occupational therapy, he said.

Before Wednesday night’s public meeting, Melody McLean and other district residents said they had concerns about the safety threats the facility’s patients might pose to the community.

“But based off where it will be located and that it’s more of a transition-type home, I don’t think we should have that much concern about security,” said Ms. McLean. “I don’t think the patients that will be here will be the violent-type patients. I think they will be more the bipolar, the depression [cases] – so I think it’s a different type of patient that will be there.

“So I think we should, as people in the community, I think we should give it a chance.”