OUT of a total 30 properties viewed across Jamaica, 8a Banbury District in Linstead, St Catherine, with its pristine air, lush greenery, and rolling hills as far as the eyes can see, stole the hearts of the operators of Richmond Fellowship Jamaica (Patricia House) in their search for a new location, after leaving their former Upper Lady Musgrave Road home in Kingston where Patricica House had been housed for more than 30 years.
Now ensconced in decidedly cooler climes and from an attractive and well-appointed building sprawled across 1.5 acres of a fruited property neatly tucked away from the hustle and bustle of city life the charity organisation, staffed by the best of professionals, in May this year resumed its mercy mission of rescuing individuals from the chokehold of alcohol and drug addiction.
“The location at Upper Lady Musgrave Road was really rundown and not meeting the needs of the clients that were in-house. Based on feedback from a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) report it was decided to close that facility, sell the property, and find another place to offer the services so this property was acquired. It was a private home and so it was refurbished and more spaces added to accommodate treatment rooms and more persons,” Business Manager Monique Williams told the Jamaica Observer in an interview last week.
She said the residential treatment facility — which will accommodate clients for 30-day, 90-day and six-month stretches at a cost of $150,000 per month — is ready to rival any other facility within the Caribbean in terms of the quality of the accommodation, quality of the service, and the quality of the treatment.
“It has been more streamlined so everything about Patricia House is much better than it was in Kingston. When you walk in, the atmosphere really speaks to tranquil and lends itself to people really having that time and space to go through their rehabilitation in a serene environment that is very calming and caters to their well-being,” she noted.
Judith Housen, treatment director at Patricia House, told the Observer that the 16-bed facility prides itself on offering evidenced-based interventions, with treatment informed by a cycle of change approach.
Housen, an experienced psychiatric nurse as well as a specialist practitioner who has worked with the National Health Service in England as well as Vancouver Coastal Health Authority in Canada in various capacities said, “What we have brought to Patricia House is a structured programme that is in line with international standards. We have group therapies, individual therapies. We also will facilitate family counselling, and we have qualified counsellors.”
She said the entity, which caters to individuals 18 years of age and older, does not limit its intake to drug addicts and alcoholics but also cares for those with trauma and other addictions.
“Addiction is a wide area. I have experience in treating persons with not just alcohol and drug addiction, but gambling addiction, sex addiction. We know we have social media, and persons are addicted. Although we are mainly for drugs and alcohol we are open for addictions in general because persons have different types of addictions,” she told the Observer.
“We cater to persons who have dual diagnosis; in most cases persons addicted to drugs and alcohol [have] some form of mental health issues going on like, depression, anxiety.
“We really do get a lot of calls to assist persons having mental health challenges, and that’s when we realise how critical it is. There is a chronic shortage of mental health facilities in Jamaica because persons call from right across Jamaica,” Housen said concernedly.
“Our treatment approach is trauma-informed. Basically, persons who take drugs and alcohol usually tend to do so based on psychological, social trauma that affects their mental health — so they went through some trauma that makes them choose the drug or alcohol. Most times persons say they chose it, they followed friends, but in dealing with them you realise that there are so many traumas that they have gone through that led to that,” she explained.,
The entity, which has semi-private and private rooms that all have ensuite bathrooms, also admits individuals from other countries, the Observer was told as operators seek to tap into the medical tourism market. Harassed business professionals or individuals wanting stress management assistance can also book themselves in for refuge.
In defending the treatment cost Housen said, “We are a charity organisation, our overheads are very high. We have not been able to ramp up donations; what we would really like is that when we get donations, then persons who cannot afford the treatment, we would like to allocate at least two beds.”
“We would not just turn out the persons who require a longer stay beyond what they can afford. We have what we call aftercare and it goes up to a year. We have outpatient treatment, and those clients can come in three days per week,” she said, adding that the entity is in discussions with insurance companies to see how coverage arrangements could be worked out for that category of treatment.
“Overseas, most persons pay with their insurance. It is something that has to shift here; it is a matter of culture,” she noted.
Executive director of Patricia House Michael Tucker, speaking with the Observer, said, “A lot of people will say, based on what was happening before, it’s expensive but what we are doing is offering, first of al,l the environment where somebody has the tranquility and peace to really get proper counselling and have a good opportunity to recover. We are offering professional staff, balanced meals. All of these things combined necessitate us to charge a reasonable amount. If the place were full it would barely help us to break even.”
Operational costs run somewhere in the region of $3.5 million the Observer was told.
As it continues to build out plans for the future Housen said the entity, which has a seedlings nursery, plans to establish a hydroponics farm. Other ventures are also being explored to see how the resources on the property can be used as income earners.
Plans to establish an adolescent treatment unit on the same property have been temporarily shelved due to the unavailability of funds.
According to the National Council on Drug Abuse, alcohol continues to be the drug most widely used in Jamaica. Approximately 40 per cent of the population — that is, four in 10 people — report that they currently use alcohol, while 11 per cent reported current use of cigarettes, and 16 per cent ganja.