Government announces 114th COVID death, improving behavioral health services | New

More than three years after declaring a mental health emergency and with little evidence, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced new efforts to improve these services in the Virgin Islands.

During a press briefing normally reserved for updates on COVID-19, the governor announced the resurgence of the VI Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Act which was intended to close gaps in services for residents who suffer from health problems. behavioral health, mental health disorders, developmental disorders. , and substance abuse disorders.

Although the original bill was submitted to the Legislative Assembly, it was considered in committee. The newly revamped behavioral health bill was completed in collaboration with stakeholders and the office of Sen. Novelle Francis Jr., who Bryan said could help facilitate a faster review of legislation to modernize the territorial approach to behavioral health.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Bryan, who in 2019 declared a mental health emergency, while shaking his head in disappointment.

“We hope that we will carefully consider this in the Legislative Assembly and make it happen, thereby facilitating the work of the judiciary, our mental health professionals, as well as our staff at the Department of Health,” Bryan said. .

The legislation is replete with changes, but those noted by Bryan during the briefing include an approach to voluntary treatment of people with behavioral health issues, determination of mental capacity to stand trial, and recognizance and rehabilitation of those suffering. substance abuse disorders.

If passed, the bill would establish a crisis response program and a crisis response team to “deal with some of the situations that we see in our community where our enforcement officers of the law are obligated to care for someone who suffers from mental illness and may not be as trained as such.

The bill also addresses families dealing with loved ones who present with behavioral health problems and disorders.

“Because it’s a struggle when your loved one is going through something and you don’t have the resources,” Bryan said. “You really come and get from the government a legal aspect of what you can do and without that legislation there really isn’t much.”

The legislation also contains safeguards and protections for the homeless, which Bryan said his office receives many complaints about “homeless people who appear to be suffering from behavioral health issues, the management of which is integrated into this draft law.” law”.

“We can’t just pick people up off the street and force them into treatment, but this bill helps to make things a little easier. It also deals with the involuntary commitment of people diagnosed with behavioral health issues because often they don’t want to be treated,” Bryan said.

Although submitted to the Legislative Assembly, the bill still needs to be considered and advanced by various committees before the bill can be signed into law by Bryan.

In other discussions, Bryan announced that the $25 million quarterly tax budget allocation is dedicated to paying taxpayers outstanding tax refunds owed from previous years.

“It’s money we’ve spent to make sure we catch up. We could have paved roads with it, we could have made lighting with it, we could have done other things with it, but we paid people back,” he said.

The latest installment will cover tax refunds filed in 2020 and brings the government closer to paying the same year the taxes are filed, which Bryan added he believes the Bryan-Roach administration will be the first. to accomplish.

During the briefing, Territorial Epidemiologist Esther Ellis updated the public on the status of COVID-19 in the Territory. The department announced the 114th death from the disease, the first since early May.

The victim was identified as an 87-year-old man from St. Thomas, who was unvaccinated.

The Virgin Islands has 627 active cases of COVID-19 split between St. Croix which has 452 active cases, St. Thomas which has 131 and St. John which has 44. The overall positivity rate in the territory is 11, 72.

“You may have noticed over the past three weeks that the active cases on all three islands have changed. St. Thomas post carnival numbers are leveling off and trending down. St. Croix numbers were increasing before the agricultural fair, but appear to be leveling off,” Ellis said.

Although stabilizing, there are still six unventilated hospitalizations in Saint-Thomas and one in Sainte-Croix.

— Contact Bethaney Lee at 340-714-9104 or email [email protected]

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