Justice Minister Anna Richardson met with law enforcement, mental health, and drug rehabilitation stakeholders on Tuesday to discuss the problems and potential solutions surrounding mental health disorders and substance abuse.
The Minister requested the meeting because of recent reports of various persons acting violently and wandering the streets in a disoriented manner, possibly due to substance abuse.
Police have been called many times to deal with substance-induced mental disorders. They have received 67 calls about persons seemingly under the influence of a hallucinogen since the beginning of this year alone, said John. Police received 23 such calls in January, 18 in February, 21 in March, and six calls so far in April, a month which is only about a week old.
Police Chief Carl John emphasised that his officers are hampered in responding to these types of calls because they are not properly equipped and trained to deal with persons suffering from mental health disorders. He hopes that this type of training will be realised.
Some of the stakeholders reported that Fentanyl – a synthetic opioid about 50-100 times stronger than morphine and heroin – has become more wider available and is being used by some residents.
Mental health issues and disorders have been on the rise in St. Maarten over the past year, according to MHF.
Minister Richardson proposed that the stakeholders form a “committed alliance” to tackle the country’s mental health and substance abuse issues. She requested that the stakeholders research current problems and propose (legal) solutions.