Ministries to intensify care of mentaly ill, vagrants
Guyana Chronicle
January 17, 2007

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THE Ministry of Health will, this year, implement programmes to intensify efforts at caring mentally ill persons and vagrants, mainly in Georgetown.

It will be done through a joint undertaking with the ministries of Home Affairs and Human Services and Social Security that would establish a $400M facility for the homeless, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported.

The collaborative venture would lead to the removal of several in the target group from the streets of the capital for subsequent evaluation, Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said.

He told GINA that the procedure is complex because methods have to be implemented to ensure that individuals removed from off the streets do not return there.

Ramsammy said treatment will be provided for patients, on long-term and short-term bases, at the Mental Clinic of Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) or the National Psychiatric Hospital in Berbice.

He explained that now the Human Services Ministry has expanded the Night Shelter service to 24 hours daily, the Ministry of Health will be referring patients to that institution regularly.

GINA said he noted that, before the end of January, a National Suicide Reduction Committee will be launched among the 2007 priorities for his ministry.

Ramsammy also stated that a National Mental Health Strategy, on which the Ministry of Health has has been working quietly for some time, is finished and would address mental health issues such as substance abuse, depression and eating disorders.

He said an integral part of the plan is advocating recognition of mental health as an illness faced by all age groups.

According to GINA, in 2004, the Ministry of Health inaugurated the Adolescent Health and Wellness Programme and redesigned health centres into youth friendly institutions in acknowledgement of the fact that mental health is a major problem for young people.

GINA said health workers have also been trained in the area of occupational therapy with support from British Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) volunteers and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).

They were subsequently posted to various health clinics to make referrals to the National Psychiatric Hospital and the Medical Clinic at GPHC, GINA said.