22,600 kids to benefit
MONTEGO BAY, St James – WITH the launch of the Child and Adolescent Guidance and Therapeutic Wellness Centre in Montego Bay almost 23,000 children across the country now have a better chance of getting the help they need to stay away from a life of crime. The project, which seeks to intercept and holistically address the needs of youngsters in St James who are exhibiting abnormal behaviour, will also provide support for their parents.
The goal is to replicate it across Jamaica.
Member of Parliament for St James North Western and the visionary behind the initiative, Dr Horace Chang said personnel from government agencies will provide counselling and other forms of intervention at the “one-stop shop” facility.
“A lot of our young citizens who are involved in abnormal behaviour have emotional challenges. The idea of this, and the need for this kind of work, was clearly demonstrated. This is how we ought to intervene and intercept at a point where we can prevent the young individuals — our young boys — from growing up into a life of violence and criminality,” he explained.
Dr Chang is also the deputy prime minister and minister of national security.
“When we find a youngster in school who may have problems, once they have been identified and counselled and have discussions, we will seek to reach out to the entire family. While our social network is not that big it is quite strong, and if we interface with them and get them involved in new, productive activity we know we can resolve the crucial problems,” he added on Friday during a tour of the Humber Avenue location where the facility will be established in Montego Bay.
The first group of beneficiaries who counsellors will reach out to, the MP said, are the 22,600 children in 100 communities across the country that Planning Institute of Jamaica has identified as being in need of therapeutic counselling.
“Other data correlates with that in terms of security; incidence of not just homicides, but general criminal activity; the conditions in terms of housing — in many areas [there is the issue of land] titling, for example. So the idea is to put all of this together and ensure that Government responds to them in a holistic way at all times,” explained Dr Chang.
Regional director in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Region Four, Dr Michele Pinnock, who described the initiative as “a dream come true”, said the first-of-its-kind wellness centre is ideally located.
“I welcome this project… We are talking about counselling for individual students, counselling for parents because (I want to let you know) our boys and girls are not naturally negative — sometimes they are just trying to react to a number of things that are happening around them. So if we can have this location where we can pull together the things that are affecting them, I am sure that we will have a brighter future,” she said.
Parish manager for St James Health Department Lennox Wallace also welcomed the initiative.
“I am a part of history being created here today and it brings joy to my heart,” he said. “We want to ensure that these young people have a place in society. You identify, you treat, and you release into society. The St James Health Department is proud to be a part of this historic venture.”
Sandals Foundation and the European Union are among those that have partnered with the Government on the new venture, and Dr Chang expressed confidence that other private sector interests will come on board.