EDITORIAL – Another delay on road to mental health facility

“To promise better treatment of our mentally ill and not follow through would be seen as a failure to the people of the Cayman Islands.”
– Compass editorial, Nov. 27, 2007

“It’s very frustrating for me, but much more frustrating for the patients. People are asking about this on a daily basis: ‘Where are they with this facility? We heard about it a year ago.’”
– Mental Health Commission Chairman Dr. Marc Lockhart

On its face, the project does not seem too terribly complicated. A central building, a handful of small cottages surrounded by gardens and grounds – essential elements that are common to many planned developments here on Grand Cayman.

But our community has been waiting for years for this particular project to come to fruition: A therapeutic residential facility where islanders who have serious and persistent illness can receive ongoing care and support.

As all should well know after years of discussion, such a facility would fill a critical need for our population. So it is doubly frustrating to learn government has once again gone back to the drawing board in re-issuing a request for bids.

As we reported this week, officials did not confirm for the Compass why the retendering was necessary, but Cayman Islands Mental Health Commission Chairman Dr. Marc Lockhart, who is close to the project, told the Compass earlier that last year’s preliminary bids came in costing too much.

Jennifer Ahearn, the Ministry of Health’s chief officer, says government remains committed to building the new facility. Interested bidders will have until March 22 to submit proposals for the project, which was broken down this time into five separate elements. We hope that is enough to bring this long-promised facility into use.

This is not the first time we have been assured that a solution was on the horizon. Searching through the Compass archives, one will find periodic commitments to provide on-island facilities for residents with long-term mental health conditions. When this most recent iteration was approved nearly a year ago, we were told groundbreaking would take place in the summer of 2018, with the doors opening for residents this spring.

No one disputes that the current arrangement of sending patients to facilities in Jamaica or the United States is untenable and causes considerable expense and hardship. So why has it been so hard to get this project off the ground?

As the Compass editorial board wrote so succinctly more than a decade ago – to promise and not deliver this vital facility serving such a vulnerable segment of our population would be a failure to the people of the Cayman Islands.

One of the defining characteristics of a good and responsible government is its attentiveness to the needs of its people. One of its core functions is carrying out those responsibilities which cannot be discharged reasonably by the individual or profitably by private enterprise.

This project clearly fits well within that scope.

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