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Oct 10, 2019

Police Continue to be Trained as Part of M.O.H.’s Mental Health Operational Plan

Eleanor Bennett

The death of Nestor Vasquez Junior in July following a violent attack inside a holding cell at the Queen Street Police Station, has brought into sharp focus the need for additional support when it comes to dealing with mental health patients. Vasquez was placed inside the cell with a mentally ill person who was taken there having stabbed a nurse at the Cleopatra Clinic. Since that incident, there have been concerns about the work that the Ministry of Health has been doing with police to ensure that when officers come in contact with mental health patients, they are not violated. Nurse Eleanor Bennett says that since 2007, officers have been and continue to be trained as part of the ministry’s mental health operational plan countrywide.

 

Eleanor Bennett, Technical Administrator, Mental Health, M.O.H.

“We have had a long history of good work with the police. In 2007, both our ministries collaborated together to develop a manual and the manual is really to train police officers about how to intervene when it comes to situation with people who have mental health issues and are behaving bizarrely or strangely and for many years, we have enjoyed a very good working relationship with the police. They would call us or bring people to us for evaluation and along with them we decide how we are going to manage those patients in community. We have had that relationship extend to frequent trainings all over the country for police officers. That activity became engrained in the Ministry of Health’s mental health operational plan. So every mental health staff over the country participate in police training and we have been doing that since 2007 since we developed the manual.”

 

Three officers: Sergeant Shawn Walton and Constables Edward Pitterson and Bernard Cayetano have been held accountable for the death of Vasquez and a police tribunal has recommended that they are removed from the police department. Their fate now lies in the hands of the Attorney General and the Public Service Commission.


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