NATIONAL Security Minister Dr Horace Chang says the State has been finding it difficult to recruit clinical psychologists to support interventions in the zones of special operation (ZOSO), resulting in challenges with psychosocial services.
Speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday following the tabling of orders for the extension of ZOSOs in Mount Salem, Denham Town, Greenwich Town, August Town, Norwood, Parade Gardens, and Savanna-la-Mar, Dr Chang said the shortage is due to the fact that most Jamaicans who study that discipline do not focus on clinical psychology.
However, he said efforts were being made to resolve that issue as the Government tries to broaden the provision of that service to communities in the ZOSOs.
Dr Chang told the House of Representatives that there have been significant changes in the ZOSO areas as, in addition to reduction in crimes, there is a significant cooperation between the police and residents.
He said naturally, some of the security features of the states of public emergency (SOEs) have overlapped with ZOSO security operations, stressing that the zones are in keeping with a social development model, with the aim of ensuring that services are institutionalised. Dr Chang noted that when challenges are identified, through schools, for example, the authorities work with families to alleviate those issues.
Opposition Member of Parliament for North Western Manchester Mikael Phillips had asked for some indication of the successes outside of the community development measures, and questioned whether the crime-fighting measures under the ZOSOs have failed, forcing Government to resort to the use of SOEs.
Dr Chang, in his update, said so far the social intervention committee has managed the implementation of over $300 million in investments in Mount Salem, while in Denham Town, capacity building of the Community Development Committee (CDC) saw investments of more than $20 million being directly managed at the community level, creating job opportunities for residents, and increasing governance and accountability.
Furthermore, he advised that Greenwich Town had its single-largest period of public investment, which includes the third phase of an enterprise grant, and infrastructure upgrade. "The work plan for the community, as well as the community priority plans, indicate there is need for additional investments. These are being identified, and the required allocations are being considered," he reported.
He added: "August Town continues to show promising results. The social intervention committee continues to engage and provide critical guidance to the sustainable build out of interventions within the area. With over $200 million committed to date, the zone remains on track and will achieve its intended objective of a safer and better community."
Meanwhile, the Norwood ZOSO is to receive significant build-out of infrastructure, including supporting the rehabilitation of road and water supply. He said there are approximately $300 million in approved projects to be implemented in the community over the next two years. The Parade Gardens ZOSO and Savanna-la-Mar ZOSOs, meanwhile, are still at the development stage.
The House approved the extension of the ZOSOs for another 60 days.