Thursday 29 October, 2020

Deyalsingh ‘hell-bent’ on decentralising mental healthcare

After decades of a business as usual approach to mental health, Government is moving to decentralise mental healthcare beginning in 2019.

Expressing concern that the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital had become a warehouse for mental health patients with some spending as much as 30 years at the facility, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the new model for mental health support will be more community-centric.

Speaking with reporters at the San Fernando General Hospital on New Year’s Day, the Minister said it was unacceptable that the psychiatric hospital, the largest healthcare facility in the country by bed count, had become a home for some patients.

He said it was important that a new model be adopted to ensure that patients from all areas of the country have proper access to the care they need and are reintegrated into society.

“What decentralisation will do is what everybody in the mental health field has been clamouring for for decades. Put it back in the community setting so that people can go back to their communities and receive mental health support and be reintegrated back into their communities, remake contact with the family and their friends, have community support, get jobs.”

“There is a certain percentage of people in St Ann’s who can function in their communities with the proper medication and psychosocial support,” he added.

“You have people in St Ann’s who spend up to 30 years of their life there. It’s their home. It’s what they know. That is wrong and we are hell-bent in starting the process of decentralisation in 2019.”

The Minister said the new model of mental healthcare, which follows consultations spanning a two-year period, would involve new facilities while existing facilities would be re-purposed.

“The policy decision has been taken. It is up now to the RHAs to execute.”

The overhaul of mental healthcare is part of the Ministry’s plan for public health until 2020 which includes three other major initiatives: the elimination of the chit system of blood donation to a 100-percent voluntary process; the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis by the middle to the end of 2019; and attainment of the 90-90-90 target for the elimination of HIV by 2020.

Strategic plans for changes to the blood donation system and the elimination mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis will completed to the end of January, after which Deyalsingh said he would be able to discuss in more detail.

The Minister assured that press conferences to deal with the mechanics of each of these initiatives will be announced in due course.

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