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Published On: Tue, Nov 17th, 2020

Worrisome trend in mental health issues

PHILIPSBURG – Monday’s meeting of the parliamentary committee for Public Health, Social Affairs and Labor about mental health did not pay a lot of attention to the relationship between the Mental Health Foundation and Fredericka Ford’s company Ethegrity though former interim director Eileen Healy did make a few comments about it.

When Ford surfaced for the first time on the radar in St. Maarten in October with a presentation to Parliament about Ethegrity Healthcare Consulting, MP Claudius Buncamper asked her whether it was true that the company had made a proposal to the MHF worth $2.4 million. ”Yes, we did, but it was spread out over a couple of years,” Ford answered.

Related article: A multi-million dollar sales pitch

Whether this was a true or a false statement remains to be seen, as Ford’s reliability has come increasingly under pressure. This appears, for instance, from a LinkedIn page that touts Ford’s husband Wesley Mason III as the CEO of Meridian Behavioral Health Systems. Ford features on that same page with a picture and a caption that reads: “She is a billionaire and her name isn’t Oprah.”

Related article: Fredericka Ford: She is a billionaire and her name isn’t Oprah

While nobody will contest that statement, the page also reported that Ford is on the Spelman College Board of Trustees. Such a position reflects well on a successful black woman because Spelman portrays itself these days as the global leader in education for women of African descent. We asked the archivist at Spelman to check if Ford is (or ever was) indeed a board member and this is the answer we got from archivist Kassandra Ware: “I have confirmed through various sources that Ms. Fredericka Ford has not ever been a Board of Trustees Member at Spelman College.”

Healy said in Monday’s meeting that Ford had come to the MHF last year and that they discussed how Ethegrity could help the foundation forward. “We got back a brief report that was basically stating what we were doing. The bill was $200,000 and I never heard from her again until she was in Parliament.”

Related article:Therapy via the internet proposed as a solution for mental health care on St. Maarten

Later Healy added that she had told Ford: “We cannot afford that budget, so you will have to discuss that with SZV. I would prefer to spend that kind of money on our patients.”

In the meantime, Ethegrity and Fredericka Ford have faded into the background. Their (according to Ford) $2.4 million proposal did not even come up in Monday’s meeting and chances that Ford will ever enter the picture as MHF’s guardian angel seem to be slim to none.

The meeting did produce some interesting figures about the foundation’s work and the state of mental healthcare in St. Maarten. In 2019 the foundation delivered 10,926 treatments. With a staff of 46, the MHF has 581 active patients.

The trend in mental health issues is rather worrisome. In 2018 the MHF served 3,268 ambulant patients, while up to September 2020 that number is 4,968 – a stunning increase of 52 percent in less than two years. The number of outpatients increased over the same period 35.5 percent from 3,741 to 5,068.

Healy and current interim director Kitty Pelswijk described the MHF’s current building as “inadequate.” The foundation needs a facility of more than 3,800 square meters with two, and preferably three isolation rooms. There is a need for guided living facilities for 24 clients.

Healy also reacted briefly to recent publications following the death of MHF-patient Caulette Julien in solitary confinement on August 25 that definitely put the foundation in a negative light, but she stayed away from details. “Much of what was published is not true. We have discussed these articles with lawyers because they have affected the work we do and they even have affected our patients. The problem with taking it to court is that the articles did not state circumstances as facts; they stated that it is suspected to be like that.”

Related article: Psychiatric patient dead in solitary confinement

Kitty Pelswijk described how the lack of capacity for crisis-interventions is impacting the community: “We have family members that have become clients because they could not handle the situation at home.”

She also noted that continued psychiatric care in St. Maarten is rather uncertain. ”One psychiatrist is currently at home and I am the only other psychiatrist. If I fall ill, St. Maarten is done.”

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Related articles:
Mismanagement at MHF continues
Mental health patient dies due to possible overdose of medication
Mental Health Law not being applied
Distinction between natural and unnatural death remains unclear
Three months in solitary confinement, then deported
Solitary confinement belongs in the Middle Ages
MHF explains hiring process non-BIG Medical Professionals
Video images of Caulette Julien still not released
‘Black stock’ of antipsychotic drugs at MHF
Too many drugs: polypharmacy alarming trend at Mental Health Foundation
Medical liability issue gets attention from government
Psychiatric patient dead in solitary confinement
MHF response to article StMaartenNews.com September 22, 2020
Medical recognition divisive issue at Mental Health Foundation
Interim Director responds to publication about MHF turmoil
Mental Health Foundation in turmoil
Announcement New Interim Director Oct 1 2020

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