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Better understanding of children's health care needed, says Ruel Reid

Published:Friday | April 7, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke
Maura Barry-Boyle, (centre) mission director of USAID Jamaica, hands over keys of the mobile mental health unit to Senator Ruel Reid, (second left) Minister of Education, Youth and Information (EYI) yesterday. Looking on from left are Rosalee Gage-Grey, CEO of Child Development Agency, (CDA); Floyd Green, Minister of State in the EYI; Dean-Roy Bernard, Permanent Secretary, EYI; Eric Khant, deputy chief of mission, minister counsellor of the U.S. Department of State and Professor Julie Meeks, deputy principal, University of the West Indies Open Campus.

Acknowledging the need for a greater understanding of health care needs for children in Jamaica, the education, youth and information minister, Ruel Reid, is urging a change in culture to better care for the ones diagnosed with mental illnesses.

"A vision without purpose is a nightmare," Reid said. "And while we have the vision, we must also change the culture in relation to mental health. There needs to be a culture of care in how we deal with children and mental illness," he continued.

Reid was speaking at yesterday's handing over ceremony of three motor vehicles - a customised 30-seater Coaster bus and two Hiace mini buses to the Child Development Agency (CDA), as part of the effort to expand mental health services provided by the CDA.

"Firstly, there must be a change of culture. We must understand what is needed to address this concern," he said.

The buses were procured through the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the University of the West Indies at a cost of $19.7 million.

The Mobile Mental Health Unit - dubbed the Smiles Mobile - has been retrofitted with a fridge and comfortable sofa-style seating at an additional cost of $2.7 million.

"These vehicles are needed in our efforts to better reach the children most in need; those who have mental health issues. We owe it to them to care for them in a special way," Reid noted.

"It is in that vein that I am urging that as a nation and a people, we try our best to return to our proven ways as Jamaicans. Not only must we be a warm people to our visitors, but a people who care for each other, our children and our future," he said.

... Government eyeing therapeutic centre for children

Meanwhile, Floyd Green, state minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, said that the investment means greater cohesion in the screening, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of wards of the State.

"It is fitting to note that these units will not only serve those children under the ambit of the CDA, but also those in the Department of Correctional Services.

"We will continue to raise the bar to provide quality service to our children because we have a big and ambitious dream, one that we are currently pursuing vigorously," said Green.

He said that the Government was seeking to establish a therapeutic centre that will offer residential psychiatric and psychological support to children in care who have undergone severe emotional trauma and are in need of therapeutic healing.