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Rectory renovation project represents shift in mental health treatment

New approach: the Right Reverend Nicholas Dill, the Anglican Bishop of Bermuda, Habitat for Humanity chairwoman Sheelagh Cooper and MWI clinical operations vice-president Preston Swan (Photograph supplied)

A former church rectory in Somerset is to be transformed into a home for people suffering from mental illness.

Once renovations are complete, the old St James Church rectory at Somerset Bridge will provide around-the-clock care for patients with long-term mental conditions.

The initiative was developed by the charity Habitat for Humanity in partnership with the Anglican Church of Bermuda and the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute. The church will provide the building for a nominal rent, while MWI staff will be on hand to give professional healthcare.

Preston Swan, the vice-president of clinical operations at MWI, said the project represented a shift in the way mental health treatment is provided — moving away from institutionalised care to community care.

He said: “Research shows that the institutional model for mental health services is outdated. People with mental health needs have better outcomes when housed and supported in their local community, surrounded by their loved ones.

“Providing a stable rehabilitation model in the community helps to improve their quality of life and reduces the frequency of relapse and/or readmission to acute inpatient services.

“We are delighted at the interest and willingness of both Habitat Bermuda and the Anglican Church to partner with us to improve the lives of our clients.”

Sheelagh Cooper, the chairwoman of Habitat for Humanity, Bermuda, said the new facility will fulfil the charity’s mission statement of building strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter.

She added: “We are grateful to have the opportunity to design and renovate the old St James Church rectory to improve the lives of those with mental health challenges, and to be a part of an effort to decrease the negative stigma associated with mental illness on the island.”

Ms Cooper said that the renovations are expected to cost between $500,000 and $600,000, but hoped that costs could be reduced.

“The donor community has already shown a great deal of support as they realise the increased need for state-of-the-art psychiatric services in Bermuda,” she said.

“We hope that cost can be significantly reduced with volunteer labour and donated materials from our always generous local building supply companies.

“Our architectural team has already drawn up plans for the facility and will be submitting them to the planning department shortly.”

The Right Reverend Nicholas Dill, the Anglican Bishop of Bermuda, said: “The Anglican Church of Bermuda has five marks of mission — to tell the gospel, to teach the faith, to tend and care for the vulnerable, to transform unjust structure, and to treasure and care for the Earth.

“Enabling care of the vulnerable and sick, and ensuring they are treated with equal human dignity, is part of the mission to tend and protect.

“In Bermuda, access to appropriate and adequate mental healthcare in a community that still has stigma attached to it is a matter of justice.

“Where the vulnerable are denied such due to societal bias, the church is called to transform such structures in partnership with others.

“Recognising this, with the full support of the parish vestry, we are pleased to offer the former rectory, Bridge House, at a nominal rent.”

Last year MWI devised a five-year plan to provide modern, patient-centred treatment to “promote hope, empowerment and self-determination”.

Anna Neilson-Williams, the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s chief of psychiatry, said: “This facility is designated as a step away from the hospital system, and will offer integrated and interactive training and skill-building programmes.

“It has been developed as an alternative to inpatient care for people with long-term psychiatric needs.

“Our primary aim is to help people achieve a level of functioning sufficient for success in a less-supervised setting with less-intensive services.”

BHB deputy chief executive Scott Pearman added: “Our commitment to integrate care and move it from institutions and into our communities is achieved through this tripartite partnership.

“BHB will manage the facility, providing 24-hour staffing, which will include robust in-house recovery and enrichment programmes.

“This healthcare reform will not only help destigmatise care, but allow families to continue to embrace and support their loved ones in a community setting.”

The old St James Church rectory is the second in a series of community-driven projects by Habitat for Humanity. Last year it restored what is now the Transformational Living Centre for Families.

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Published December 22, 2022 at 7:58 am (Updated December 22, 2022 at 7:58 am)

Rectory renovation project represents shift in mental health treatment

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