Fri | Nov 24, 2017

Bunting cautions against another Mario Deane incident

Published:Wednesday | November 1, 2017 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett

Peter Bunting, the newly minted chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, said more than 200 persons with mental illnesses are now being held at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre in

St Andrew and has raised concerns that this could result in another Mario Deane incident.

Deane, a 31-year-old construction worker, was severely beaten and stabbed inside the Barnett Street Police Station in St James, allegedly by two men with mental illnesses. He later died at hospital in August 2014.

Bunting, who was speaking during yesterday's meeting of the PAC, said as many as 250 schizophrenics were being held at Horizon three years ago while he was minister of national security.

He said a task force created by the then government managed to reduce that number by as many as 30, but suggested that nothing has been done since.

"Some of these patients, who really require therapeutic mental health treatment, have been languishing in Tower Street [Adult Correction Centre] for decades," Bunting said.

Bunting described it as unfair for the State to house mentally challenged inmates and other inmates in the same correctional institution.

"The risk of this was brought home to us in the lock-up situation with Mario Deane a few years ago, and I am really anxious that we are not taking a sense of urgency in this situation," he said. "Looks like these persons have just been forgotten in the system."

Responding to the concerns, chief medical officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr Winston De La Haye, revealed that discussions are now taking place with a view to refurbishing a building at Bellevue Hospital to house the inmates.

"This is the direction the discussions are going and I am leading those discussions," said De La Haye, one of several health officials who appeared before the PAC.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com