MHF and Turning Point get involuntary admission permits

POSTED: 01/10/13 1:02 PM

GREAT BAY- The Mental Health Foundation as well the Turning Point Foundation will both be receiving a temporary permit in order to legally provide involuntary admission services as a form of crisis intervention for psychiatric patients. Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Dr. Cornelius de Weever made the announcement yesterday during the Council of Ministers weekly press conference.

The move is a welcome one and the minister expects that it will close the chapter on what he calls irresponsible words that are being thrown around about competition between the two agencies, government’s favoritism of Turning Point, the rerouting of services from the MHF to Turning Point and the capacity of both institutions. Since 2010, the MHF has been waiting for a decree from government to officially establish itself as a healthcare institution. In the meantime, it had already begun working with the Ministry of Justice and the Pointe Blanche House of Detention on a few involuntary admission cases.

“What is important to understand in this legislation is that it says that if you are going to take the rights of an individual or client who has had an episode, that client needs to be evaluated by an independent psychiatrist. When the minister of justice decides to issue this he has to make sure that the information he receives is from an independent psychiatrist. You cannot be a client of Mental Health Foundation and then they use just a doctor to evaluate the client rather than an independent psychiatrist,” Minister de Weever cautioned.

He explained that he had taken the initiative along with the Minister of Justice to meet with all four psychiatrists on the island. During those discussions agreements were made to put protocols in place for the involuntary admission services.

“My office had even hired a person to specifically deal with that. We also met with the board of the MHF and explained our situation and the reality of it. They are also in agreement so in the next week or two, I believe this will be finalized and put to rest,” the minister stated.

“In the meantime, this is not about sending patients to Turning Point, it is about providing care to our family members and friends and we have to do so responsibly.”

In terms of children and adolescents, the minister said that it had been observed that child psychiatrists were not being called to address their particular situations while they were being treated at the MHF. He explained that during a meeting with the resident psychiatrist of the MHF, Dr. Sachin Gondotra   a young patient was in the care of the facility. The minister said that he asked the doctor whether a child or adolescent psychiatrist had been contacted to deal with the child’s case and he was told no.

“I strongly recommended that he do so. It was done that way and the young person was treated at the St. Maarten Medical Centre,” the Minister said.

The minister’s believes that although there are many care products that MHF can offer, the foundation must ensure that the institution’s facilities are conducive for these expansions.

He cited the fact that the MHF does not have enough open but secured spaces for people to walk around, exercise, relax or take a smoking break while Turning Point Foundation has more space for these types of activities.

“If MHF has only one room and we have two other patients that have an episode then we need alternative sites as well,” the minister added.

He said that the intention was not to send patients to Curacao or elsewhere but many outpatients have dual diagnosis such as substance abuse and mental health problems.

The MHF continues to dispute statements that attorneys do not treat cases that are referred to as “double trouble.”

“We believe that we have the right to protect the clients as well and we have to find that balance. We are also looking at having a lawyer assigned to patients because they do have their rights and that should be protected,” Minister de Weever concluded.

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