Collaboration with NGOs crucial in the battle against substance abuse – Health Minister
Through partnerships with private organisations, the Ministry of Health hopes to broaden access to health facilities and services for substance abusers.
Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony, during Tuesday’s COVID update, said collaborative efforts between the government and private or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) play an integral role in providing counselling for substance abusers.
The National Psychiatric Hospital in Region Six is the only mental hospital in Guyana that provides inpatient acute, sub-acute and chronic mental health care services at a national level. There are NGOs and private entities that offer some outpatient services. The minister importantly noted that the facilities are not enough to handle the capacity of persons who may struggle with substance abuse.
“What we are proposing is to be able to develop, whether publicly or in partnership with private sector (entities) or NGOs to be able to expand our service to offer institutional support; to be able to do that in a clinical and medical way because it can be a timely process and require professional people to be able to do it in the right way to prevent further relapses,” Dr Anthony said.
He added that in many cases, persons don’t realize they have a substance abuse problem because some substances such as alcohol are socially acceptable and promoted at multiple functions, making it easier for persons to abuse the use.
Hence this service is needed and conversations that spread awareness are vital. “They need help, so we have to create an environment in which if they need this type of help, we have the type of clinics to offer this type of help. Some of it might be an outpatient basis but some of it you will need an institutional clinic,” he explained.
“With consumption of alcohol, apart from the damage you do to your body, including liver disease, heart disease… you also would have other problems which are socially connected – so family problems, violence in the family, a whole host of surrounding issues.”
Dr Anthony said it is important that we start having that conversations on alcohol abuse and the detrimental effects that it has both in terms of health, social life and the co-dependency that is developed.
He further said that one of the components of the new mental health plan is to be able to provide institutional support for substance abusers. It will simultaneously safeguard individuals’ human rights.
The legislation that was tabled at the National Assembly will replace the Mental Hospital Ordinance of 1930, once debated and subsequently passed.
The legislation states that mental health services shall be equitable and accessible to all persons living in Guyana and emphasises that individuals in need of mental health care shall not be discriminated against. The legislation states that hefty fines for various offences will follow if convicted of committing acts that obstruct the duties outlined in it.
A total of $73.2 billion was allocated to the health sector in the 2022 National Budget with $39 million going towards an extension of the mental health ward at the GPHC, while $50 million was allocated towards training- especially in speciality areas such as addiction and rehabilitation.