Wed | Jan 27, 2021

Psychiatrist: I’m serving 90 mental inmates in Spanish Town

Published:Saturday | August 1, 2020 | 12:20 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


Forensic psychiatric expert Dr Myo Kyaw Oo has lamented the shortage of psychiatrists to treat Jamaica’s approximately 240 prison inmates who have mental-health issues.

Oo, the only doctor in Jamaica who is licensed to do forensic psychiatric reports, made the statement while briefly addressing the St James Circuit Court on Thursday during the sentencing hearing for inmates Marvin Orr and Adrian Morgan.

The two men, who suffer from mental-health disorders, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2014 death of Mario Deane but were subsequently released on the grounds that they had been in custody since that time.

“Right now, there are only two sessional psychiatrists, and there are approximately 150 people with psychosis at Tower Street,” Oo, referencing the adult correctional centre in Kingston, said while addressing the presiding High Court Judge Glen Brown via Zoom conferencing.

“In Spanish Town, at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre, there are between 70 and 90 psychiatric patients, and I am the only one visiting Spanish Town once a week,” Oo added.

Speaking specifically about Orr and Morgan, Oo said he had conducted dozens of sessions with Orr and Morgan since 2014.

“From his admission to the St Catherine Adult Correctional Facility in 2014, I have seen Mr Morgan 19 times, the last time being this year, and in my report dated August 23, 2018, he reported that he saw a doctor in Whitehouse, Westmoreland, for his ‘head problem’ and received an injection every month.

“I have seen Mr Orr a total of 21 times since 2014,” said Oo.

Last December, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton noted that while the Ministry of Health’s annual budget for mental health is approximately J$120 million, double that amount is needed for adequate education and treatment.

In the meantime, in his ruling for Orr and Morgan’s case on Thursday, Judge Brown said that the lack of psychiatrists would hinder the timely progression of similar matters through the courts.

“I know there is a lot of criticism of the justice system, but while the judges are in charge, we judges act along with other professionals, including psychiatrists.

“If you don’t have sufficient psychiatrists, you cannot expect us to do anything on a timely basis,” said Brown.