Barrington Flemming – Staff Reporter
The St. James Health Services and representatives from the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund will meet with stakeholders in Montego Bay on Wednesday to craft a plan for the construction and maintenance of a multi-million-dollar centre for the mentally ill in Montego Bay.
Lennox Wallace, Chief Public Health Inspector for St. James, discloses that, “The proposal was submitted to the CHASE Fund and they have come aboard to assist us with the building of this facility. The St. James Municipal Corporation, through its Chairman and Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Homer Davis, has given us land near the border of the infirmary to erect this new centre.”
He further explained that the new centre would be constructed on the same site which now houses the Refuge of Hope Night Shelter for the mentally ill and homeless at Albion, adding that it would be incorporated as part of the new centre.
Mr. Wallace said the municipal corporation has also committed to paying some of the staff to be employed at the new facility.
“The St. James Health Department will provide the staff to treat these people whose families are sometimes afraid to have them around and so many times after just two or three days they are back on the street. They urinate and defecate on the street, which apart from not being aesthetically pleasing, also poses a health hazard. So, it is good that we are having a facility that will house and treat them until they are fit to be returned to society to take up their full place as worthwhile citizens,” the Chief Public Health Officer noted.
Mr. Wallace indicated that at Wednesday’s meeting, the final budget and the policy guiding the operations of the new mental health centre would also be finalized and submitted.
He said all things being equal, the new mental health centre should be completed at year’s end.
Mr. Wallace maintained that with St. James having a black patch in its history with the mentally ill, the idea is a timely one noting that the St. James Health Department would not want to have a recurrence of that.
He was making reference to what was dubbed the ‘Street People Scandal’ which saw 39 street persons being whisked from the streets of Montego Bay in the pre-dawn hours of July 15, 1999, and transported to St Elizabeth, where they were subsequently dumped near a mud lake.
The Street People Scandal sparked an international outcry and was followed by a commission of inquiry, but no one was found criminally responsible.
The enquiry, however, revealed the involvement of a St James Parish Council truck, rope purchased by the municipal authority, and police officers in carrying out the act.
The Government accepted liability and was ordered to pay the victims a $20,000 monthly stipend as part of a compensation package
Joy Crooks, Nurse Administrator at the Committee For the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill, CUMI, when contacted, welcomed the proposed new centre for the mentally ill.
“This is would be very good news because we need an intermediate facility to complement what already exists here, we need something to treat these people who would otherwise have nowhere to go to she said.