Published On: Thu, Feb 20th, 2020

‘Government needs to ensure that forensic care is available within weeks’

Forensic Care Taskforce OM MHF TP 20-02-2020

PHILIPSBURG – An urgent letter to the Prime Minister has resulted in the establishment of the Taskforce Forensic Care. In the letter, the Public Prosecution Service, Point Blanche Prison, Turning Point and the Mental Health Foundation raise the alarm: “The lack of forensic psychiatric expertise, treatment and housing of forensic patients has become a crisis situation. This presents serious threats to the safety of victims, family and the community at large.”

Both Mental Health Foundation (MHF) and Turning Point Foundation cannot provide adequate treatment for mentally ill people who pose a danger to their environment and themselves – in many cases, criminals and former prisoners. “MHF lacks the facilities and the staff needed to ensure safety. Turning Point Foundation’s infrastructure is also inadequate and the foundation lacks the psychiatric expertise. Furthermore, the Turning Point Foundation is primarily focused on substance abuse,” as stated in the letter sent to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs on February 14. The letter is also addressed to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (VSA).

In the four-page document, the Mental Health Foundation, Turning Point Foundation, the Foundation Judicial Institutes (SJIB), the Public Prosecution Service, the Orde van Advocaten and the Pointe Blanche Prison sound the alarm bell together. They emphasize that they have been working hard to deal with the situation as best as they can. “But the fact remains that there is a deficiency in our system.” Several meetings were held with the Ministry of Justice, but no solution had been reached.

St. Maarten lacks a facility for specialized psychiatric treatment. The letter explains: “Not all people are endowed with the same qualities. Lucky is the woman or man who is intelligent, happy and liked by many. However, some people have a low IQ, suffer from depression or substance abuse. Some people have psychotic episodes in which they lose contact with reality, and some people suffer from personality disorders that are so severe that they lack empathy and don’t know right from wrong. Especially unlucky are the people who suffer from a number of these disorders.”

Most of these people can be treated effectively and can participate in society very well, according to the authors of the letter. “There is a small portion however that pose a danger to themselves and to others, be it family, other clients, staff or the larger public. As a result of their disorders their behavior can be unpredictable and creates risks to damage to property or bodily harm. This small group causes relatively much disturbance, damage, injury and grief.”

Turning Point has tried hard to get containers on their premises, which would allow to house and treat forensic patients in cooperation with the MHF. “These containers have been on the island since November 2019, but have not been made available.”

MHF has been working on a proposal for the World Bank for a new facility where forensic patients can receive treatment. The initiatives of MHF and Turning Point are awaiting government action in terms of permits, policy coordination and financing. “We stress the need for action and a plan that reflects a holistic government approach to mental health, including both the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (VSA) and the Ministry of Justice.”

Due to the dangers involved, the organizations are urging the government to ensure that forensic treatment is available on St. Maarten within a few weeks. They also urge the government to create ‘a proper forensic treatment institute as a long term solution’.

Min. of Justice Egbert J. DoranJustice Minister Egbert Doran has reacted constructively. Three days after receiving the letter the Minister held a meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Mental Health Foundation, the Foundation Judicial Institutes (SJIB), Turning Point and the Public Prosecutor’s Office. During this meeting a Taskforce Forensic Care was formed. The Taskforce is inviting the Cabinet of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour to join the taskforce. The taskforce will meet every month and discuss all matters relating to forensic care.

Photo caption: From L to R: Cynthia Filemon, Acting Director Stichting Justitiele Inrichtingsdiensten Bovenwinden, SJIB (Reclassering); Dr. Lloyd J. Richardson, President Turning Point Foundation; Eileen Healy, Interim Director Mental Health Foundation; and Mirjam Mol, Chief Prosecutor. Photo provided by Public Prosecutor’s Office. Missing in the photo is Dean of the Bar Association, Geert Hatzmann and Director of the Point Blanche Prison/House of Detention, Alwin Keli.


Related links:
The Public Prosecutor’s Office makes early release of prisoners public
The Netherlands releases TBR convicted prisoner, sends him back to St. Maarten
Forensic Care Taskforce Letter to Justice Minister 20-02-2020
Press Release Forensic Care Taskforce Formed 20-02-2020