Mental health boosted with new psych ward, legislation

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The government will be spending millions over the next year as it seeks to dedicate more resources to address mental health issues, suicide prevention and substance abuse.

Following through on President Irfaan Ali’s promise to invest resources to address the soft issues like mental health, the government has set aside $26 million in the 2021 National Budget for the construction of an 18-bed mental health ward at the National Referral Hospital (National Psychiatric Hospital), located in New Amsterdam, Berbice in Region Six.

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony said this will be an extension and upgrading of the existing facility to accommodate more patients.

“One of the things is that when patients get acutely ill, they will be able to come in and be hospitalised and stabilised before we are able to send them home again… that’s why we need additional beds,” Dr Anthony revealed on Wednesday during a pre-recorded interview with the Department of Public Information.

Additionally, the government is looking to do a review and revision of the Mental Health Act of 1930 – “a sorely overlooked and outdated piece of legislation.”

Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony

Dr Anthony reminded that there was a draft Bill in 2010 which is now being used in the consultation with stakeholders. He said he hopes to get the Bill to Parliament as soon as possible so that a new legal regulatory framework can be established.

In the meantime, after the mental health strategic plan expired in 2020, the government has embarked on a review and evaluation process. Once completed, a new plan will outline the mental health programmes for the next five years as a means of offering care and support to those affected.

A sub-component of that is suicide prevention for which a separate strategic plan will be crafted, but one that falls within the realm of mental health.  Dr Anthony said one of the main focuses is to get people to be better able to detect and treat mental health issues.

He said the government will also address the issue of substance abuse which is linked to mental health. Further, the government has allocated over $70 million to address the shortage of essential medication for psychiatric patients.

Dr Anthony promised greater resilience and access to mental health services at a national level.

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