KINGSTON, July 8 (JIS):
To strengthen mental health care, two buses valued at more than $11 million have been donated to the Ministry of Health, to support the Psychiatric Emergency Response and Home Visitation programmes.
The vehicles, which were handed over today (July 8), at the Nannyville Health Centre, in Kingston, have been donated by the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund.
In his address at the ceremony, Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, said the buses will prove particularly useful in responding to emergencies at the community level.
“The acquisition of these buses will boost our efforts and support the community mental health programme in several ways. They will be used by the Community Mental Health teams to reach patients and clinics across the length and breadth of Jamaica. The teams will also be better able to respond to emergencies,” he noted.
Dr. Ferguson pointed out that work continues in the drive to educate the public about the issues surrounding mental illness.
“We can increase our outreach to some of the most vulnerable patients as well as our public education drive and health promotion activities through the use of these new vehicles, as we move to eliminate stigma and discrimination against persons affected by mental illness,” he added.
Stigma attached to mental illness
The Minister said that public education will be an essential component in improving attitudes and behaviour towards persons who suffer from mental illness.
“We have to work very hard to chip away at the stigma attached to mental illness as this is a considerable barrier to any intervention that we seek to put in place to provide services for mentally ill patients and ensure that they are able to be reintegrated into society,” he emphasised.
Meanwhile, Public Relations Manager for the CHASE Fund, Hilary Coulton, said that providing financial assistance to the health sector is a critical part of the Fund’s overall mandate.
“The provision of services to the mentally challenged is spelt out specifically in our mandate. At the Fund, we understand that to maintain and improve the health of all Jamaicans, we must shape a sound and efficient health system that will provide effective disease prevention, treatment and palliative care for everyone, inclusive of the mentally challenged,” she said.
The Fund has provided in excess of $90 million to support programmes and facilities that care for the mentally challenged.
In 2013, the island’s mental health clinics treated 20,000 persons, and community mental health teams responded to over 500 calls related to various mental health emergencies.