SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - United St Maarten Party (USP) Member of Parliament (MP) Akeem Arrindell met on Monday with representatives of the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) to discuss the way forward his party wants to undertake to improve the overall welfare of the island.
St. Maarten currently faces several challenges due to the lack of mental health facilities. Currently a mental health ambulance care team goes into the community daily to visit mental health patients, dispense medicines and provide other services such as guidance and counseling to patients and their families.
It was observed during the meeting that the number of patients seeking treatment has increased since the passing of Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The Island has experienced an increase in mental health patients through the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of persons suffering from mental health conditions has greatly increased and there is now a need to seriously address the situation. It was recognized that there is no primary health care system on Sint Maarten, which results in the need for more care in the communities to prevent the need for costly hospital admissions.
Also discussed during the meeting is the inadequate security at the mental health facility. There is only one security guard on the premises to cover and oversee all departments. It was therefore suggested that BAVPOL officers could be of assistance to ensure the increased protection needed, once they are properly trained to deal with patients. The lack of adequate legislation relating to mental health matters also adds to the already existing challenges.
MHF recommends a consensus between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of VSA to address patient care, or the lack there-of.
Sports and educational programs and facilities are needed to enhance the welfare and wellbeing of mental health patients. The short term and long term health requirements for Sint Maarten were also discussed during the meeting. One of the short-term requirements that were outlined includes the need for additional psychiatrists. Presently MHF caters to 24 clients in urgent need of housing, leaving many on the road.
MHF has submitted a project to the World Bank for financial assistance. Several options are in discussion to facilitate the urgently needed housing for the foundation and its patients. The MHF staff attend to over 500 cases annually while the facility only has one isolation room.
A plan of action as to what needs to be done going forward was formulated. It was ultimately agreed that the Mental Health Foundation will prepare a PowerPoint presentation for review by MP Arrindell and MP Buncamper for presentation to Parliament.