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Burt’s pledge on mental health treatment

David Burt, the Premier (File photograph)

Community homes for mental health treatment in Bermuda are to be funded by the Government, the Premier pledged.

David Burt said that funding for the homes would come in the “very near future”.

The statement drew applause from the audience at the second day of the Adverse Childhood Experiences conference at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. The event examined the lasting impacts of traumatic events in childhood.

Mr Burt told attendees: “The Government will be funding, and making sure that we make funding available, in the very near future — at the latest at the next Budget session, but possibly even before — through the Social Development Committee, to fund community homes so there can be mental health treatment inside of communities, because we know that that is a significant gap right now inside of our community.”

He said that one of Bermuda’s challenges was how Aces present themselves in mental health challenges for youth and adults.

Mr Burt added the homes would help to solve “the lack of that continuum of care for persons once they pass 18”.

He said that support services offered in Bermuda “are not enough”.

Mr Burt added: “Our system of social support is under stress.”

The Premier said that in his two years as leader he had heard the “traumatic stories” of parents who were trying to help their children who struggle with mental health and behavioural issues.

He added: “It became evident, after the first I would say year in office, that we needed to do more from the Government on the social services side.

“We have challenges here in this country that have to be addressed and the resources have to be put in place in order to address them.”

Mr Burt said that a Cabinet committee dedicated to social development issues had started its work. He added: “The lens in which we will view all of our policy implementation is one that makes sure that we address these issues which so many of our helping agencies are facing.”

Mr Burt said that Aces were a health risk that had a “tremendous impact on future violence, victimisation and perpetuation, and lifelong health and opportunity”.

He said that untreated Aces were also responsible for increased healthcare costs to the Government and employers, loss of job productivity, and loss of earnings for employees who miss work. Mr Burt added: “The wide-ranging health and social consequences of Aces underscore the importance of preventing them before they happen.

“Safe, stable and nurturing relationships and environments for all children are essential and can have a positive impact on a broad range of health and behaviour-related issues, and on the development of skills that will help our children reach their full potential.”

Mr Burt said that it was not always possible to prevent trauma. He added: “We can control the procedures, programmes and support that is put in place to combat and mitigate these Aces.

“It is our job as a Government, and also as a society, to help guarantee that children in need are given the necessary support to thrive. This is our opportunity to build that better future.”

Martha Dismont, executive director for Family Centre, closed the ceremony saying she was encouraged by Mr Burt’s invitation to her to meet regarding the way forward for mental health treatment in Bermuda.

She said: “I always have mixed interactions with Government. The Government doesn’t typically involve the social sector aside from Government, but he has a listening ear — so we want to ask questions about that.

“I told everyone in the room he has invited me to a meeting and I want as many of you to come as possible and I am serious about that. We need to talk about these real issues.”