St. Maarten Mental Health Foundation loses bid for permit in court


PHILIPSBURG--Mental Health Foundation (MHF) has lost the injunction Friday, filed against the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour in its bid to obtain the necessary permit for the admittance of psychiatric patients to its facility.

The permit in question concerns the involuntary hospitalisation and/or ambulatory psychiatric treatment of individuals.
Previously, persons with psychiatric problems, who posed a danger to themselves or others, were held in police cells or referred to Capriles Clinic in Curaçao.

This situation changed after October 10, 2010, when it was agreed that each island would have its own mental health facility. Minister of Justice Ronald Duncan then designated MHF as the facility for involuntary hospitalisation in St. Maarten.

Founded in October 2001, MHF has been providing psychiatric aid since 2006, and has a special unit with cells available for involuntary hospitalisation.

The Minister of Justice has authorised the involuntary hospitalisation, but MHF cannot work without a permit from the Ministry of Public Health.

In the injunction, MHF requested such permit and also asked the court for permission to carry out its duties until the permit has been issued.

During the court hearing, Attorney Richard Gibson Jr. said the Health Ministry had not provided a permit, because the Inspectorate of Health would have established that MHF would not be in compliance with the requirements for a mental health institution.

The Ministry of Public Health would be in favour of transferring involuntary hospitalisation to Turning Point Foundation, which mainly provides drug rehabilitation programmes.

MHF had sent a letter on July 26 to the Ministry of Health in which it stated that it would cease involuntary hospitalisation as per August 1, in case it would not receive a permit.

In the injunction MHF, represented by attorney Wim van Sambeek, had requested the court to allow MHF to provide all psychiatric health care, including "fulltime, non-ambulatory, medical treatment of psychiatric patients, as well as the execution of mandatory hospitalisation under the order of the Ministry of Justice."

Without a permit, MHF is only able to carry out a limited number of its duties, and may only provide ambulatory care to psychiatric patients the foundation, represented in the injunction by Director Eileen Healy and board member Eric van der Hoek, stated.

Judge René van Veen stated in his decision on the injunction that the request for a permit had not been complete, and that it could not be ascertained that MHF would be fully hampered in carrying out its statutory obligations, which do not explicitly mention mandatory treatment.

"It may be that it is litigant's objective to provide psychiatric care and treatment, but this mere fact does not imply that defendant would have to hand out a permit," the judge stated.

The judge also rejected claims that health care in St. Maarten would be in jeopardy and that St. Maarten would benefit from care to be provided by MHF, because these claims were too "general and not-founded" to be considered in the injunction.

The judge also said there was insufficient proof for the claim that the Health Ministry had ever promised a permit to MHF.
However, The Daily Herald received copies of letters sent by Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Cornelius de Weever to Mental Health Foundation concerning subsidies over the years 2011 and 2012, in which it is specifically mentioned that under reference to MHF's multi-annual plans, these subsidies should be spent on day care, crisis intervention, ambulatory care, workshops and counselling.

Attorney Wim van Sambeek said that MHF was open to discussions with Minister de Weever concerning the matter at hand. "Further steps are being considered in consultation with stakeholders. MHF remains confident that an amicable solution may be reached," he said.