GAGE-GREY…we can’t wait to have it opened as it is very much needed
THE therapeutic treatment center where mental health interventions will be provided to the more than 4,600 Jamaican children in state care who need these services, is nearly ready.
The centre, which is being built on land at Maxfield Park Children’s Home in St Andrew, is “90 per cent complete” and is expected to be open before the end of the financial year in March, according to Rosalee Gage-Grey, chief of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) which will operate the entity.
Cabinet in May last year had given approval for the construction of the $117.1 million facility, the contract for which was awarded to Alfrasure Structures and Roofing Limited. The scope of work included the construction of a 650m2 model of a therapeutic care center for children, “with a series of rooms for consultation, observation, operations and administration”. This was to be built over six months according to the tender documents seen by the Jamaica Observer.
“We’re a little behind because it should have been done in six months, but you know construction in this country. But, the building is in place, they’re doing some of the finishing work inside and, like , parking and those kinds of finishes. We can’t wait to open it because it’s so badly needed,” Gage-Grey said.
According to statistics, there are more than 800,000 children in the 14 parishes of the island, of which almost 120,000 may have a mental disorder and 40,000 suffer from a serious mental disorder. Child guidance clinics across the island, 20 in number, tend to serve 3,500 Jamaican children, but experts estimate that more than 95% – or just over 110,000 children and adolescents with mental health – fall through the cracks and do not benefit from the services provided by the government. services.
There are 30,000 children in the Kingston and St Andrew area alone who need psychosocial intervention. It would take at least another five to seven clinics to provide services to even two-thirds of them.
Gage-Grey said while the center is primarily for children in state care, other children will be able to access services.
In the meantime, she said the center will not be residential as originally planned, however, children in crisis who need to be relocated will be given temporary accommodation on the grounds.
Gage-Grey was unable to say whether the project was completed on budget.
At first, child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Ganesh Shetty described the facility’s plans as “a step in the right direction”. However, he told the Observer that based on the number of children in Jamaica suspected of suffering from mental health problems, such a facility per parish is what it will take to even make a dent in the situation.
Foremost among her concerns are children who suffer in silence, their conditions undetected making them prime targets for gangs and criminal activity.
According to research, in the United States, two out of three of these children do not receive help, in Canada, four out of five children do not receive it, while in Jamaica, 19 out of 20 children suffer the same fate.