Search on for suitable site for child, adolescent therapeutic centre
Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna has given the Child Development Agency (CDA) eight weeks to identify a suitable location for the construction of the first therapeutic facility on the island for the treatment of children and adolescents with psychosocial problems.
With psychologists within the ministry finding that a number of the nation's children suffer from some sort of disorder or trauma, which sometimes translates into behavioural problems, there is a critical need for such a facility.
The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) has pledged $60 million towards the construction of the new facility, with the Maxfield Park Children's Home in St Andrew having initially been eyed as the possible location, but Hanna is not settled on the proposed site.
"We are trying to find a space now. We have some space at Maxfield Park, but I am not, as minister, sold on it," Hanna, told The Gleaner during an Editors' Forum on Friday.
"One of the things we are looking into is maybe pooling our resources with another ministry to look at a space. I have given the CDA another eight weeks just to finalise it."
Due to the absence of a therapeutic or mental-health facility in Jamaica dedicated to children, severe cases are currently treated at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) psychiatric ward, which was originally established as an adult unit. Up to last year, the UHWI admitted 75 to 80 adolescents per year for the treatment of mental-health problems.
No facility for children
"There is not a mental health facility in Jamaica for children and, so, sometimes the bed spaces at UHWI are filled by children," head of the CDA, Rosalee Gage-Grey, highlighted.
"With all the trauma they (children) have experienced, they are suicidal and once a child says they are going to kill themselves, they must be hospitalised. Some of them are medicated to keep them calm, so that they can get the treatment."
Gage-Grey believes the construction of a facility dedicated to children and adolescents will allow for more comprehensive treatment.
"The proposal is to construct a treatment centre wherein we would have both inpatient and residential for those who will be acute," she said. "So a child who would have gone through trauma and is exhibiting behavioural problems would need long-term treatment and not just a one-time visit."
Another issue that will face the government when the facility has been built is that of manpower, as there is a shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists on the island, as the field is a very specialised one which requires approximately 12 years of study.
"We acknowledge that it is a very specialised field, but we are going to have to find the manpower," Hanna said.
"From our part, what it will mean is getting in the child psychiatrists and psychologists, among other resources. Because, when you are doing a structure like that, all the attendant's needs will have to go into it in terms of the psychiatrist, psychologist, nurses, and so on."
The minister added, "Obviously, if the child has severe mental issues, that is probably when they would have to be hospitalised in facilities the Ministry of Health has for that."