Therapeutic treatment centre for children almost ready
GAGE-GREY... we are very anxious to have it open because it is very well needed

THE therapeutic treatment centre where mental health interventions will be provided to the more than 4,600 Jamaican children in State care needing those services, is almost ready.

The centre, which is being constructed on lands located at Maxfield Park Children's Home in St Andrew, is "90-odd per cent complete" and should be open before the fiscal year ends in March, according to Rosalee Gage-Grey, head of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) which will operate the entity.

Cabinet in May last year had given approval for the construction of the $117.1-million facility, the contract for which was awarded to Alfrasure Structures and Roofing Limited. The scope of work involved the building of a 650m2 model therapeutic care centre for children, "with a series of rooms for consultation, observation, operations and administration". This was to be constructed over six months according to the bid document seen by the Jamaica Observer.

"We are a little behind schedule because it should have been done in six months, but you know construction in this country. But, the building is up, they are doing some of the finishing work to the interior and, like, parking and those kinds of finishes. We are very anxious to have it open because it is very well needed," Gage-Grey expressed.

According to statistics, there are more than 800,000 children in the island's 14 parishes, nearly 120,000 of whom may have a mental disorder and with 40,000 suffering from a severe mental disorder. Child guidance clinics islandwide, of which there are 20, tend to 3,500 Jamaican children but experts believe that more than 95 per cent — or just over 110,000 children and adolescents with mental disorders — are slipping through the cracks and not benefiting from the government-provided services.

There are 30,000 children in the Kingston and St Andrew region alone who need psychosocial intervention. It would take at least another five to seven clinics to provide services to even two-thirds of them.

Gage-Grey said while the centre is predominantly for children in the care of the State, other children will be able to access the services.

In the meantime she said the centre will not be residential, as had been originally planned, however, children in crisis situations who need to be relocated will be given temporary housing on the grounds.

Gage-Grey was unable to say whether the project had been completed within budget.

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Ganesh Shetty, at the onset, had described the plans for the facility as "a step in the right direction". He, however, told the Observer that based on the number of children in Jamaica suspected of suffering from mental health issues, one such facility per parish is what it will take to even make a dent in the situation.

Chief among his concerns are the children who are suffering in silence, their conditions undetected rendering them prime targets for gangs and criminal activities.

According to research, in the United States two out of three such children do not receive help, in Canada four out of five children do not get assistance, while in Jamaica 19 out of 20 children suffer the same fate.

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

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