(L-R) Health Minister, Donville Inniss, chats with Chief Project Officer at the Ministry of Health, Michael Deane; Advisor to the Pan American Health Organisation on Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases,Dr. Toma Kanda; and Senior Consultant Psychologist at the Psychiatric Hospital, Dr. Ermine Belle at the Inter Sectoral Workshop on Substance Abuse at the Savannah Hotel.

Substance abuse care in Barbados is in need of urgent reassessment if it is to provide comprehensive treatment to those in need.

To this end, the Ministry of Health and its partners from various non-governmental organisations, the judiciary, community organisations, the labour unions, among others, today gathered at The Savannah Hotel to draw up a multi-sectoral plan of action for the implementation of its recommendations, following the dissemination of the findings of the Technical Report on Substance Abuse Programmes in Barbados.?? ??

While delivering the feature address, Health Minister, Donville Inniss, commended the mental health sector partners for working together with a sense of urgency to implement a comprehensive approach to address the issue.

??"Substance abuse is indeed a major societal problem in Barbados which cannot be measured in dollars and cents. Often we focus on the young men who are showcased in the media from court reports, all bedecked in baggy jeans with low waist.?? Please disabuse your minds of any belief that it is a problem only in working class districts.?? Today, we have rich people and poor people affected, white people and black people, people in the heights, parks and terraces and in the villages, those in church and those not in church, perhaps some in politics and some who want to get into politics. The harsh reality is that it affects all of us in one way or another," he said.

Mr. Inniss called for a more aggressive and multi-faceted approach to tackling this problem.

The Ministry of Health, it was pointed out, has a shared and vested interest in the improvement of substance abuse services in Barbados, since according to the Minister:?? "We have, since 2002, been in a partnership arrangement with the private sector to provide substance abuse treatment services for Barbadians.?? This arrangement is intended to improve access to treatment by the public and was guided by a study done in 1998 which indicated that there was need for a wide range and various combinations of treatment options, including outpatient treatment, short term residential treatment, long term treatment and rehabilitative services."??

The Ministry has taken steps to institute regulations to ensure that the operations of all treatment facilities are systematically executed, from the licensing of the facility to clinical administration and treatment protocols.?? Additionally, Minister Inniss revealed that the Health Services (Substance Dependency Treatment Facilities Regulations) would be passed in the near future to facilitate these requirements.

Government’s expenditure on substance abuse services has grown significantly from the $26,000 disbursed during the 2002-2003 financial year, to $1.1 million.?? The funds were disbursed on a fee-for-service basis for the treatment of clients during the year 2009-2010.?? In addition, residential substance abuse facilities have received a total of $5.5 million over the past seven years, and since 2007 counselling services have been provided with an annual subvention of $60,000 for community-based out-patient programmes that focus on services for the adolescent and female populations.

The Health Minister was, however, quick to point out that the Ministry had spent much more if the expenses of the Psychiatric Hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the polyclinics were taken into account.??

"Many of these problems also have public health implications including morbidity, injuries, unprotected sex, violence, deaths, motor vehicle accidents, homicides, suicides, physical dependence or psychological addiction and solutions are complicated by the growth in supply and demand for legal and illegal drugs.?? The resulting breakdown of families, loss of productivity, strain on legal and financial resources underscore the necessity for a comprehensive and concerted effort by all stakeholders to minimise these negative consequences," Mr. Inniss maintained. lbayley@barbados.gov.bb

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