Sun | Dec 16, 2018

Calls for help - Tufton wants new approach to treating the mentally ill

Published:Monday | April 3, 2017 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
Not all homeless people are mentally ill, but many suffering from mental-health issues end up living on the streets because of lack of proper care.

The weekend's deadly rampage in St James, set in motion by a machete-wielding man believed to be of unsound mind, has triggered a call for a new approach to identifying, treating and supervising persons who are mentally ill.

The St James police report that 60-year-old Lascelles Bracket used the machete to chop three elderly men inside a shop in the community of Norwood after his demand for them to be served a second time was rebuffed.

Bracket, the police say, then went to the nearby home of 62-year-old maintenance worker, Herman Pryce, and chopped him to death before he was set upon and beaten to death by angry residents.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton described the killings as tragic and raised concerns that violent incidents involving mentally ill persons are "happening too frequently".

"Over the last three months or so, I've heard of at least three cases of persons being injured or killed by persons who are of unsound mind," said Tufton, noting that mentally ill people usually end up homeless and on the streets.

Mayor of Montego Bay, Homer Davis, yesterday acknowledged that there is an urgent need to remove mentally ill persons from the streets of the parish because of the danger they pose to the public.

"Very, very often you see these people wandering all over the place and they are sometimes very destructive. They sometimes commit criminal acts, damage people's property, and things like that," he asserted.




Despite this, Davis admitted that the St James Municipal Corporation, which he chairs, does not have an estimate of the number of homeless persons spread across the parish and that there is no system in place to have them removed.

"I am not aware of any measure being taken at this time to pull them into a formal system ... meaning you send a vehicle out and take them off the street and medicate them," he said.

Davis promised that the issue would be discussed at the monthly meeting of the public health committee, scheduled to take place tomorrow. "We are going to discuss ways and means of how we can do something about these people ... depending on how the medical persons see fit," he said.

However, Tufton, in calling for a new approach to treat mentally ill people, said there has to be greater coordination among state agencies. In addition, he said there has to be a push to get relatives of mentally ill people to become more involved in their care.

As an example, the health minister said he wants to see closer supervision of the mentally ill at the community level "where patients are sufficiently guided to take their medication". This, he said, has to include family members playing a more integral role.

"Where they are abandoned and left to exist on their own, to live on the streets, to be homesless without any coordination as it relates to medication, then the risk of them becoming violent is greatly increased and we have seen the manifestation of that," Tufton reasoned.