Implementation of mhGAP Pilot Project in The Bahamas, June 2013

04 September

Home PAHO Bahamas News Implementation of mhGAP Pilot Project in The Bahamas, June 2013
Implementation of mhGAP Pilot Project in The Bahamas, June 2013      

The Bahamas joined a group of countries implementing an innovative world initiative in mental health. China, India, South Africa - and now the Bahamas - are among the nearly 30 countries that are participating in the World Health Organization's Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP).

Participants outside the country's mental health institution, Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre

The pilot project that was created to implement the mhGAP program in The Bahamas would not be possible without a strong partnership between the Ministry of Health, the Department of Public Health, the Public Hospitals Authority and the University of the West Indies [UWI].

Minister of Health of The Bahamas, Hon. Dr. M. Perry Gomez, addressing workshop during opening session

The Minister of Health, Honourable Dr. M. Perry Gomez, also voiced his resolute support of the project during the opening session held on May 11, when the project's implementation began. During the following two weeks, 83 primary care doctors, nurses, mental health specialists and other professionals convened at the Public Hospitals Authority and Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre to implement the project. These leaders in healthcare, from clinics and hospitals in New Providence and the Family Islands, validated the world mhGAP guidelines and adapted them to The Bahamas' healthcare system. The primary care physicians and nurses were then trained to use the adapted guidelines.

PAHO mobilized the technical capabilities of the pilot project. Dr. Devora Kestel, PAHO/WHO's Regional Advisor on Mental Health and Dr. Aileen Goldson, Primary Mental Health Care specialist from UWI-Jamaica traveled to New Providence to assist with the implementation of the mhGAP.

The pilot project implementing mhGAP in the Bahamas aims to address the challenges that health care centers face when delivering care to patients with mental, neurological and substance use disorders. Often, primary care physicians lack the knowledge or the resources to treat these patients. Fourteen percent of the world's burden of disease is attributed to these disorders, and just 25 percent of these people in low-income countries have access to mental health care. The mhGAP guide will give primary care workers in The Bahamas the skills to recognize a variety of mental health issues, while ensuring that more patients with these disorders receive the care they need.

Ms. Devora Kestel with senior officials from the Ministry of Health, the Public Hospitals Authority, Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre and PAHO at the opening session.

During the days following the mhGAP implementation, primary care workers learned how to assess patients who have the signs of depression, psychosis, and substance use disorders. They also were trained in how to treat the patients with these disorders and when to refer them to a specialist. Participants viewed video presentations and engaged in role-play demonstrations. The discussions also helped participants identify gaps in mental health care in The Bahamas, and work towards solutions. The primary care workers will then put their training into practice at their respective clinics, and join the team of primary care workers implementing the mhGAP initiative around the world.