Story Highlights Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says some of the recommendations made in a report by the Mental Health and Homelessness Task Force will be implemented this fiscal year.The report, received by the Minister in 2016, examines the current status of mental illness in the society, existing methods and techniques of treatment, and proposes new approaches to tackling the ailment.One of the most significant elements of the document to be implemented this fiscal year is a public education campaign geared at the destigmatisation of persons afflicted by mental illness.“The destigmatisation is crucial. We need to convince persons to recognise the illness for what it is and how they can play a role… and for it (campaign) to deal with those who have been abandoned on the streets,” the Minister said.Dr. Tufton pointed out that the big ongoing concern that requires immediate action is the extent to which abandoned mentally challenged persons are left on the streets without treatment, and without any care and attention, despite the efforts of the psychiatric health officers.The Minister was speaking at a ceremony to hand over two Toyota Hiace buses donated by the National Health Fund (NHF), to the North Eastern Regional Health Authority (NERHA) and the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), at the pharmaceutical division of the NHF on Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston, on April 3.The two buses, valued at $15 million, will be used to provide support for community mental health services in the parishes of Portland, Hanover and Westmoreland.The Minister said another recommendation of the report involves the training of approximately 62 psychiatric nursing aides, in order to “beef up and support the mental health teams already on the streets and in the communities”.Dr. Tufton informed that active non-profit voluntary organisations will be engaged “to lend greater support to the efforts of public health officers to support those who are on the streets and, in particular, those who are mentally ill”.The Minister noted that between three and five additional vehicles will also be procured during the year.Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NHF, Everton Anderson, commended community health workers out in the field for their efforts in addressing mental health issues, as the situation is “not easy”. Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says some of the recommendations made in a report by the Mental Health and Homelessness Task Force will be implemented this fiscal year. “The destigmatisation is crucial. We need to convince persons to recognise the illness for what it is and how they can play a role… and for it (campaign) to deal with those who have been abandoned on the streets,” the Minister said. One of the most significant elements of the document to be implemented this fiscal year is a public education campaign geared at the destigmatisation of persons afflicted by mental illness.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is to be signed between theMinistry of Labour and Social Security through its agency, the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD), and the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) to assist persons with disabilities who do not have birth certificates, to secure these under the National Identification System (NIDS) project.Executive Director of the JCDP, Dr. Christine Hendricks, who made the disclosure in an interview with JIS News, said the initiative came about following two town hall meetings organized by the Council in May.The participants included representatives of several private and public sector entities who were engaged in dialogue with persons with disabilities from several parishes on issues affecting them, including not having birth certificates.Dr. Hendricks explained that persons will get assistance to cover the cost for assessments in order to get their birth certificates, adding that “we are in the process of finalizing the MoU.” “We know that (for) persons with developmental disabilities and autism (among other challenges), the assessment process being done by clinical psychologists is very costly. So for those who are unable to pay, there will be assistance (from the NIDS project) to help them get their birth certificates as well as other assistance that is needed,” she informed.Dr. Hendricks encourages persons with disabilities to register with the Council in order to access this and other benefits.“Good things are happening for persons with disabilities and that is why I continue to implore persons to register, because only persons registered with the JCPD can benefit,” she said.The RGD is to be transformed into the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA). Work facilitating this is slated to commence during the 2018/19 fiscal year.The RGD’s Chief Executive Officer, Deirdre English Gosse, said the MoU is currently being reviewed by the entities’ legal teams.“Based on our previous meetings, we found out that there are a lot of persons with disabilities who do not have birth certificates. We are trying, basically, to provide persons who have been registered with the JCPD with birth certificates,” she explained.Outreach activities for the initiative, which will be undertaken islandwide, are being funded through the NIDS project. These include health and wellness fairs organized by the RGD.“All they have to do is show up and once we get the proper information from them, we will process and provide them with a birth certificate. We hope that persons will come out and we will get a significant number of persons with disabilities, so they can get their birth certificates. It will help them to be included in the National Identification System project, once that gets underway,” Mrs. English Gosse said.NIDS, which is scheduled for implementation in 2019, will provide a comprehensive and secure structure to capture and store identity information for all Jamaicans.Under the system, each citizen will be provided with a randomised nine-digit National Identification Number (NIN), which they will have for life.