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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 13, 2024
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Writer has Questions About Mental Health Department

It seems that the Department of Mental Health, Alcoholism and Drug Dependency is doing well. According to a recent article in a local publication, the department has been accredited by JCAHO [Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations], receiving the Golden Seal of approval. The Commissioner of Health gave the credit for this show of leadership to the newly appointed Director of Mental Health, Dr. Celia Victor.
It is unfortunate that the reporter did not question Commissioner of Health, Darlene Carty, or the Director of Mental Health, Dr. Celia Victor, on the state of the other part of her Department of "Mental Health."
He should have questioned what were then the less than humane housing conditions for persons with chronic mental illness at the Michele Motel in St. Thomas.
He should have questioned the lack of staff at Tamarind Tree Clubhouse psychosocial club resulting in a reduction of service.
He should have questioned the lack of department vehicles for outreach workers, resulting in patients relapsing and falling through the holes (not cracks) of the system.
He should question the decrease of Mental Health workers and counselors in the Christiansted and Frederiksted clinics because when they retire, resign, or die they are not replaced.
He should question the number of psychiatrists that work in the system, and what happens should they get sick or go on vacation leave.
He should question when was the last time that the Mental Health Department held training sessions for police officers on how to handle persons with mental illness under the V.I. Code section 723 law of admission to the hospital.
He should question what is the continuum of care for persons with mental illness in the Territory.
He should ask what is the relationship between the psychiatric unit in the hospital and the outpatient clinics in the community.
He should ask if the Director of Mental Health is aware of the stigma that is associated with mental illness and that education is the most important tool in eradicating it.
He should ask when was the last time that the Department attempted to educate the public on the subject of mental illness.
He should ask the question, who is responsible for the number of mentally ill persons on the streets.
Perhaps after these questions are asked we would then begin to question the validity of an accreditation for a small part of a large division.
Editor's Note: Judy Bain was employed for several years by the V.I. government as an occupational therapist. In that capacity, she has had extensive therapeutic experience with persons with psychiatric disabilities. Presently, she is the acting CEO of Ten Thousand Helpers of St. Croix, a founding member of the V.I.
Alliance for the Mentally Ill, St. Croix, and a member of Virgin Islands Advocacy, Inc.'s Protection and Advocacy Advisory Council for Persons with Mental Illness.

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e_mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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