By Christopher Tobutt
It’s been more than a year since the groundbreaking at the long-awaited Long Term Residential Mental Health Facility at High Rock Road, East End. During that time we’ve had covid, but it still hasn’t really delayed the work on the nine ‘cottages,’ surrounding the central Activities Centre that constitute a village-community atmosphere; one of the key ingredients in a newer, mulitifaceted approach to long term mental health care. Its great news, because its long been known that the Cayman Islands has been lacking this key to a truly comprehensive approach to mental health care, one that doesn’t just keep someone in a hospital bed and medicate them, but gradually re-integrates them so that they can stand on their own two feet and better manage life’s challenges and curve-balls.
On a recent tour, it was impressive to see the progress. The basic structures are already more-or-less there, it is just putting on the roofs and finishing off that await. The architecture of the project reflects its purpose. The cottages are set into little clusters, so that it represents communities-within-communities; a nice way of learning or re-learning social skills. Present on the tour were the Premier, Hon Alden McLaughlin, Minister of Health Hon. Dwayne Seymour, Minister of Home Affairs Hon. Tara Rivers, and Dr. Marc Lockhart who has been helping to oversee the project from the beginning.
Showing me around, Dr. Lockhart said, “So this is like a little village being build. In each of these cottages we have space for six patients, each having their own room, their own bathroom, so everyone has their own little apartment in it. They are separated so that there can be a family – type setup and that helps people to bond as a unit in each cottage and it helps them to take pride in each cottage. They are going to be able to design the yards and the gardens around each one, too.
“It’s a community, so its helping people to learn the skills and the necessary tools for them to go back into society. This is not just a typical hospital where people are just kept on a ward and medicated, and released back. So there are going to be a lot of social skills that are going on, and being learned.
So the whole architecture of the Centre facilitates the holistic mental health experience. “Every aspect of this facility was planned with rehabilitation in mind, and when we say rehabilitation we mean to really get people to a point where they can go back into community and be able to work, function and manage their household and their finances,” he said.
“We know when we are ill, one of the first things we want as human nature is to have our family members with us,” he said. One of the challenges we’ve faced is that all these years we have lacked a proper mental health facility and we’ve had to send our patients overseas. We’ve had a contract with Jamaica and we’ve been sending many there for many years. We have about fifteen there and the problem is that many family members feel alienated from their loved ones there.”
Hon Tara Rivers said, “I am really happy to be part of a government that is now really bringing this to fruition. This long term facility will certainly address a huge need we’ve had for a very long time.
Premier Hon Alden McLaughlin said, “I believe it is going to be world class and it will mean that we will be able to bring home many of our own people who are in similar facilities in the region.”