Minister of Health Dr. the Hon. Duane Sands said according to the World Health Organization, 14 percent of the global burden of disease is attributed to mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders. “Despite this, most of the people affected, 75 percent in many low-income countries do not have access to the treatment they need,” Dr. Sands said at the Opening Ceremony of the Mental Health Global Action Programme MHGAP training workshop held at the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA), Wednesday, October 3, 2018. He explained that MHGAP aims at scaling up mental health services most particular in countries with low and middle income, and The Bahamas has been an active participant in the programme since its inception. The Health Minister said the programme is a collaborative effort of the Ministry of Health, Department of Public Health, Public Hospitals Authority (led by Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre), and is supported by the Pan American Health Organization. “Since 2013, we have taken aggressive steps to expand access to mental health services through improved linkages with primary care facilities in our communities. Sandilands has taken the lead in integrating mental health care into primary health care by launching its MHGAP training sessions.”
He noted that the programme has introduced training to staff at primary care centers and community clinics, which continue to be a frontline detection method of mental health challenges and episodes. “This incorporation of mental health treatment in all primary health care facilities ensures that Bahamians who present for treatment of any complaint should have the presence of emotional or mental issues detected and addressed and if necessary referred for further treatment.” Dr. Sands explained that some 91 physicians have already completed training through the MHGAP Programme, some 35 from the Department of Public Health, some 55 from the PHA as well as one physician from the Department of Corrections. He added that 134 nurses have already received training through MHGAP, some 51 nurses from the Department of Public Health and 79 nurses from the PHA in addition to four nurses from the Department of Corrections. The programme also allowed for the training of a PHA psychologist and pharmacist from the Department of Public Health.
The Health Minister said, “I believe these numbers reflect the depth of our continued commitment to the MHGAP programme across our healthcare system.” “With this programme, we have been able to expand access to mental health services within The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. He said, “We have also enhanced the promotion of the health and well-being of the whole person: physical, mental and social by building comprehensive services within primary care settings; and we have been able to provide access to specialist advice, support and professional guidance for improved mental healthcare delivery in the primary care setting.”