WITH a virtually ready-made clientele of drug addicts in its backyard, among them adolescents, the operators of the rebranded and newly reopened Richmond Fellowship Jamaica (Patricia House) in Banbury, Linstead, say it stands ready to impact that population.
“It is a real concern, and it is our intention to target the youth population,” Judith Housen, treatment director at Patricia House told the Jamaica Observer during an interview last week.
Housen was responding to revelations by the St Catherine Health Department in November of 2022 regarding the impact of early drug use on the population in that parish. According to the department, half of the mentally ill residents in the parish of St Catherine are drug addicts, a number of whom are young school leavers who have become a menace to their families, frequently landing in trouble with the law to fund their drug habit.
According to the St Catherine Health Department, of the almost 4,000 persons in the parish diagnosed with a mental illness, half of that amount are drug users, most of whom are addicted to alcohol.
Making the disclosure during a panel discussion at Jose Marti Technical High School in St Catherine, where the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) at the time launched its school tour in recognition of Drug Awareness Month, a representative of the department said drug use habits are being formed from the classrooms.
According to the representative, the department has been seeing in child guidance clinics young, school-aged children with mental conditions brought on by drug abuse, the majority of whom are young graduates.
“What we see mostly is the people who have left school so when they leave school at 17, 18, 19 years old, we find that we see more of those coming to our adult clinics. And they are the ones who have found themselves in problems with the law because to feed their habit sometimes they are deviants, and so they engage in a lot of deviant behaviour,” the individual said.
“We find they are not only in problems with the law but they also have a lot of family dysfunction because sometimes they have now disturbed the equilibrium of the family, and so there are a lot of issues because of drug use,” the official disclosed.
Housen, in responding to those findings, said Patricia House was not unaware of the reality which forms the ugly underbelly of its idyllic new surroundings.
“That is part of our plan, for there to be an adolescents unit. If you noticed, there is a container outside â€” that is where it will be placed. We have run out of funding but the adolescents unit is very much part of it,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
Executive director of Patricia House Michael Tucker, who also heads the NCDA, said the unit will become a reality despite the delay.
“We still have that plan because we want to separate the two programmes; it’s not ideal for adolescents to be in the same environment with adult substance abusers. There is a matching container we should get [similar to one now housed on the property]. We will refurbish and isolate [this] from the main centre, with its own separate entrance, and we will have treatment for adolescents,” he told the Observer.
In the meantime, he said while Patricia House is focused on offering treatment for drug and alcohol addicts it cannot disregard the mentally ill. He, however, said these individuals would need to have some measure of stability in order to benefit from the suite of programmes offered by Patricia House.
“People on the road and the mentally ill, there is a strong link between substance abuse and mental illness and a lot of them are schizophrenic, so for somebody to benefit from [a] structured programme some of those persons would have to be stabilised first, so you would have to detox them first. The counselling has to be accepted and the person has to give feedback. In a situation where the person is schizophrenic they really can’t listen and give a response,” he pointed out.
The 16-bed residential facility resumed client intake in May this year, after temporarily closing down its operations at Upper Lady Musgrave Road in the Corporate Area in order to relocate to its Banbury District address in Linstead, St Catherine.