It is urgent to invest much more in mental health sector
Julio Chestaro, president of the Dominican Society of Psychiatry.
Santo Domingo, DR
The large number of people with mental disabilities wandering the streets of the country’s main cities is a reflection of the urgent need for the Dominican Republic to invest in mental health.
In addition, to create and establish in each province of the country different levels of structures to diagnose and treat the patient in crisis and, after overcoming the crisis, to accommodate in sheltered homes or day hospitals those who cannot be in the family environment, which would prevent them from wandering.
This was stated by psychiatrist Julio Chestaro, president of the Dominican Society of Psychiatry, as the only way to meet the high demand for mental health care in the country, which has risen between 30% and 40% due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that it is urgent that the national budget of the health sector is increased and that 7% of it be destined for mental health, and not as is currently the case, where not even one percent of the health budget is allocated to this area.
The specialist thus answers to concerns expressed by Listín Diario in its editorial yesterday about the increase in mental problems in the country, the number of people wandering the streets, and the insufficiency of the services or schemes destined for the care of mental health.
Precariousness also affects the Center for Psychosocial Attention and Human Development (RESIDE), created with the purpose of decentralizing mental health services with a community approach, according to a report published yesterday by this media.
The president of the Dominican Society of Psychiatry said that the problem in the country concerning people with mental illness is that they did not start to apply what was contemplated in the Mental Health Law. Still, it was left unfinished, leaving the country without the complete structures for their treatment.
He said this project was just beginning to apply the stage of creating crisis intervention units in hospitals, which was not completed, leaving most provinces without this service.
In addition to this, the specialist added, there is no structure where to send these patients once they overcome the crisis since there are no sheltered homes, day hospitals, and community mental health centers, of which there should be one in each province or at least in each region of the country.
He pointed out that these patients often live with an elderly mother and cannot control them, so they go to the streets because the State does not have a structure where the doctor can refer them once the crisis is over.
He pointed out that not all people wandering the streets of the country’s main cities have mental health diseases, but a group of dispossessed people also live in the streets.