Chang hopes psychosocial support is answer to crime
Happy Smiles Dental Services dentist Dr Rekha Advani (left) conducts an oral procedure on Grade 5R student Christopher Green at the Flankers Primary and Junior High School, in this March 2022 photo.

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Once again using his St James North Western constituency as an example of how ineffective social intervention programmes alone can be, Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang says he is now pinning his hopes on a psychosocial support component to make a difference in communities plagued by crime and violence.

"You had about 28 functioning social intervention programmes in Flankers – multiple government agencies, multiple international agency along with a few locally developed ones. But the fact is that within that year [2005] the murder rate got up to a 172 within my constituency in total numbers...Montego Bay got to 335," he said.

"Spending all this money in CSJP (Citizen Security and Justice Programme), PMI (Peace Management Initiative), USAID (US Agency for International Development), it wasn't working and not just policing. And that was a fact I had to live with and therefore, I couldn't continue like that and that was the raw fact of life," he added.

It is a general point he has made in the past but this time he was speaking during a graduation ceremony for 15 individuals who have become the first-ever certified in psychological first aid in St James. They were trained under the Government of Jamaica's Citizen Support Plan, with support from the European Union. Chang believes the support provided by the new initiative will build on work already being done through social intervention.

"I am pleased to be here because this signifies a new direction in how we serve and seek to treat with the violence in the community. I am confident that these psychological first responders will contribute significantly to reducing the level of distress caused by traumatic events in and around the communities," he said during the ceremony that was held at the S Hotel last Friday night.

"I want to congratulate and thank you, the graduates in particular, for your dedication to be part of this initiative [that] will contribute to reducing crime and violence in our communities. Through all your efforts, you will help to break the cycle of violence by identifying individuals in need by listening and linking them to support services," the minister added.

The initiative, he said, is in keeping with recommendations outlined in a needs assessment report for psychological support undertaken by the European Union technical assistance team in partnership with the Ministry of National Security through the Citizen Security Secretariat.

The report, presented in 2022, provided insight into the benefits of psychosocial support.

"The report pointed to the need for a trained group of first responders at the community level to provide immediate support and connect individuals facing the trauma to support services," Dr Chang explained.

He pointed out that the report also called for these services to be utilised "in the parishes, in particular where we had declared the zones of special operations".

Head of cooperation for the European Union in Jamaica, Aniceto Rodriguez Ruiz, spoke of their willingness to partner with Jamaica on the initiative that is expected to help curb crime and violence.

Case management and psychosocial support services, he said, "have shown to be effective ways to reduce the risk of the continuation of the cycle of violence while strengthening the resilience of the players".

CHANG… this signifies a new direction in how we serve and seek to treat with the violence in the community

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