Health Minister Alvina Reynolds has revealed that her ministry is currently working to put together a inclusive Mental Health Bill, which will ensure greater protection for mentally ill persons.
Reynolds said this new piece of legislation could be presented to Parliament before the end of the year and will look at how persons should care for mentally ill people.
“There have been calls for a longer period of stay for patients, because of the threat they may pose to themselves and other members of the population,” she explained.
The minister said the bill will hopefully address all the shortcomings at the country’s only major mental health institution – the Mental Wellness Centre – which has had its share of problems.
She said, “There must be a level of sensitivity, compassion, tolerance, and patience and support for these patients. It’s a lot of work going into this discussion.”
Further, Reynolds said her ministry has looked at the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) ‘Use of Force Policy’ and how they respond to situations involving mentally ill persons.
“I am very pleased to say that even the police in Vieux Fort drafted something and we have something also, which we will combine to use across the board,” the minister added.
While admitting that there is always a lack of resources, Reynolds stated that her ministry plans to move in a direction which will eventually allow for community teams to be trained and attached to police stations.
In the meantime, however, the Ministry of Health will continue to train police officers to respond more appropriately to persons suffering from mental illnesses.
“The families have cried out to us, they want the police to know how to respond,” she related.
During the course of 2014, a few mentally ill persons were fatally shot by police, which sparked major criticism about the need for police to be properly trained to respond to these cases.