While the Cayman 2.0 series has thus far been looking at the ideas and strategies that could make the country a better place, we’re changing things up for December. This month, we’re highlighting 21 people who could turn some of those ideas into reality – or at least get the ball rolling – over the next calendar year.
When it comes to looking forward to 2021, Dr. Marc Lockhart is keeping his goals simple – open the long-term mental health facility under construction in East End.
“I would like to have a conversation… one year from now and be able to say that the facility is open, that we have brought back [mental health patients] that were in exile in Jamaica, sent them back to their own homes, back to their own country for treatment,” Lockhart said.
“Get people that are on the streets here in Cayman with chronic, long-term mental health conditions into a therapeutic community setting, that they’re able to start to thrive, to learn the skills to be able to take charge of their life and to be productive members of the community.”
21 people in 2021
The mental health facility has been a labour of love for Lockhart. The planned $15 million complex covers 15 acres and will have nine cottages – each of which can house six patients – and a central building for administration, dining and activities. It will also feature an orchard and vegetable garden, and even farm animals.
Lockhart has been involved with its planning for nearly a decade and has seen firsthand the need to get the facility open. Right now, the only option for those who require around-the-clock care from mental health experts is the eight-bed mental health ward at the Cayman Islands Hospital, which is not meant to be used for long-term stays.
“The number one issue is the shortage of available beds for acute and chronic psychiatric admissions,” Lockhart said.
“The analogy I like to give is, we have an emergency room for psychiatry. But we don’t have the beds that are needed for longer-term care. So it’d be as if the only thing we had was an A&E. And if you had a cold or something, you just had to go into the emergency room. If you needed to be hospitalised for a surgery or for longer-term care, there was nowhere to put you.”
Ground broke in 2019 on the long-term facility, which Lockhart describes as a 54-bed “community” because of its planned therapeutic approach.
The facility will likely require more than 100 staff, which Lockhart says is both a challenge and an opportunity for Caymanians interested in getting into the field.
“[It will benefit] the community as a whole in terms of providing jobs and opportunities for young people that may have a social work degree or a psychology degree. And maybe it’s just a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree. What do you do with that? Our economy has always been focussed more on financial services and tourism products. And this is opening up a new area to employ those that are residents on island… ”
While many of Lockhart’s goals for 2021 revolve around the facility, he says there is also work to be done in terms of advocating on behalf of those living with mental illness, especially young people.
“We have made significant gains,” Lockhart said. “So this is not all about criticising and complaining about what we need to do. And while that list is long, on the other side, we have really made gains over the last 15 or 20 years.”
He hopes to keep those gains going in 2021.