Mentally ill persons who live on the streets in Barbados are a source of concern to Government.

This was acknowledged by the Acting Minister of Health, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner as she addressed the launch of The Psychiatric Hospital’s satellite clinic for these individuals, at the Headquarters of the Salvation Army in Reed Street, Bridgetown.

"Their plight can have a negative impact on the health of our communities and the socio-economic status of the country, especially the tourism sector, if it is not urgently addressed. This group of persons can often be seen soliciting favours from locals and tourists, who may be shopping, doing business or just relaxing in these areas," said Mrs. Sandiford-Garner.

Noting that it was difficult to ascertain the number of homeless and mentally ill persons since they were such a mobile section of the population, the Acting Health Minister said that in an effort to plan and effectively provide care for this target group, the Psychiatric Hospital, before the end of year, would conduct a study to accurately determine the number of homeless/mentally ill in Barbados.??

It was however recognised that there were 114 persons registered with the Psychiatric Hospital as being homeless, of which 105 were males, while nine were females. "Of this group 24 percent make up 90 percent of The Sir Clyde Gollop shelter’s population. This facility provides sleeping accommodation for men only. Approximately 50 persons from the shelter attend the Salvation Army’s feeding programme," she said.

Mrs. Sandiford Garner further noted that the mobile nature of this group also prevented community mental health nurses from monitoring them and providing necessary care. She stressed: "Despite the improved community-based care provided by the Psychiatric Hospital, finding the mentally ill/homeless, for follow up care is impossible using the conventional methods.

Therefore persons relapse and experience multiple admissions to the hospital. This, in turn, imposes a heavy financial burden on already limited resources, and helps support the stigmatisation of the mentally ill."

She added: "The launch of this clinic today is a unique opportunity to reach out to the mentally ill/homeless in the city and hopefully in the not too distant future, to extend this service to the entire island. This satellite clinic is an extension of the community-based services which have been offered for over thirty years. It is designed to reach those persons who are in need of psychiatric care, but are not willing to return to the clinics, or cannot be found for follow up care.?? It is hoped that with these interventions, the group will become more stable and be better able to function in society."

The specific objectives are to expand the community-based care to meet the needs of the mentally ill/homeless; to improve their mental health status; to reduce the number living on the streets; to reduce the number of re-admissions to hospital and to reduce the negative impact on tourism and businesses in the city.

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