This month we begin a new column looking at different mental health issues facing Cayman residents, written by contributors from the Alex Panton Foundation.
By Hailee Robinson, APF's Director, Deputy Chairperson, and the Legal & Policy Committee Chair
The Cayman Islands has experienced an alarming rate of suicide over the years. The decriminalisation of suicide was an important milestone for the Alex Panton Foundation (APF) and our community and has encouraged further dialogue on suicide prevention and mental health.
The APF has received inquiries from concerned parents and community members on the issue of insurance companies refusing to pay for critical mental health treatment. These include: recovery after self-harm or a suicide attempt; mandatory psychological assessments, and generally exhausting insurance coverage on regular care and services too quickly. As self-harm is among the permitted exclusions from coverage outlined in the Cayman Islands Health Insurance Regulations, many insurance companies deny claims to cover costs associated with attempted suicides.
Current insurance policies and infrastructure are insufficient
The financial barriers to mental health services are exacerbated by the restrictions presented by insurance policies available in the Cayman Islands. The APF’s Legal and Policy Committee is working to reform the Health Insurance Regulations and the Mental Health Act to remove "self-inflicted injuries" from the list of benefits which may be excluded under the standard health insurance contract and provide clearer definitions for mental illness to ensure insurance providers are able to provide adequate mental health coverage.
The absence of a long term residential mental health facility, represents a significant gap in the continuum of care. We look forward to the completion of the facility that is currently under construction. Similarly the Mental Health Commission has identified a gap in access to emergency mental health care for children and young adults. The APF is working with Health Services Authority (HSA) and the Ministry of Health to create a mental emergency healthcare facility catered specifically to children and adolescents. The HSA and the APF hope to provide these services to the public in the first quarter of 2022.
How young people can access help in the interim
To address these outstanding needs for accessing treatment, the APF designed the Financial Assistance Programme in August 2020 for persons who are 30 years old and under, have been diagnosed with a mental illness like anxiety or depression, and have limited to no health insurance for mental health treatment. We also ask applicants to demonstrate their financial need.
With this policy, the APF hopes to provide greater access to mental health professionals to young people in the community who otherwise lack the means to finance their own treatment and care. Through the programme, the APF has currently supported up to 24 young people, 21 of whom are active recipients and patients, for a total award of CI$49,782.50.
For more information on how to access financial assistance, visit https://alexpantonfoundation.ky/financial-assistance-programme/
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