Bellevue to transition into two facilities

BELLEVUE Hospital in Kingston is to undergo a comprehensive $150-billion overhaul this year to transform it into two distinct institutions — a mental health rehabilitation centre catering to the more than 400 social cases currently housed there, and a mental health hospital for the treatment and care of acute mental health patients.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton made the announcement during his contribution to the sectoral debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. He stressed that the social cases population, comprising patients who have been released but remain in hospital because they have nowhere else to go as their families have abandoned them, had to be separated from the chronic mentally ill population.

“The reality is that Bellevue has become a home for the homeless — not a place to treat mental health deficiencies — and most of the population in Bellevue are persons who have controlled conditions but have nowhere to go because of the stigma in society; they have been cast out and they end up on the streets, but we can’t put them out on the streets,” he said.

Tufton said that the centre for acute mental health care will be a 100-bed facility that will not only have the most modern techniques for the treatment of mental health conditions, but will also seek to create the physical environment that supports the recovery, reintegration, and the restoration of the total person within the society.

In November 2021 Tufton disclosed that 75 per cent of the patients at Bellevue had been discharged but remained at the hospital because their families had abandoned them.

Dr Tufton noted then that Bellevue had become more of an infirmary than a mental health institution as most patients have no option but to remain there, sometimes for years, although they have been discharged.

He further noted that under the Mental Health Act and the National Health Services Act, the health ministry will be creating facilities to properly rehabilitate and reintegrate into society individuals who have been impacted by different types of mental health challenges.

“Mental health as a noncommunicable disease can rob our society, our communities and our families of valuable human resources, so that reintegration is critical. So, we are going to be developing a more activist programme around reintegration,” he said.

In the meantime Dr Tufton said that this year the ministry will be doing more to enhance its mental health response in its community engagement, and with the continued collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization for the Problem Management Plus intervention.

“Already the programme has trained 119 community members from entities such as churches, civic groups and community-based organisations, providing them with the basic tools for counselling and psychosocial support. This year the intention is to train 180 persons, including 30 supervisors,” he said.

Tufton said the health ministry has also been working in collaboration with the education and youth ministry to provide mental health interventions in schools, noting that 531 school personnel have been trained in understanding how to optimise and maintain good mental health; understanding mental disorders and their treatments; decreasing stigma; and enhancing help-seeking efficacy, which is knowing when and where to get help and having the skills necessary to promote self-care and how to obtain good care.

“Additionally, [we will continue] our #DoYourShare Campaign which will target some 50 additional schools this year, where we go into the schools and we have a dialogue with young people [who may be experiencing mental health challenges],” he said.