Frederiksted Health Care (FHC) in the U.S. Virgin Islands (VI) is one of several hundred community health centers across the nation that was awarded federal funds to address the substance abuse disorders and mental health challenges in the VI Territory. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on its website in June 2018, that new funding would be available to expand services to fight both substance abuse disorders and mental illnesses in community health centers nationwide. According to a press release from HHS last month, the federal agency began releasing those monies in September.
This is good news for St. Croix, where the FHC center, under the umbrella of the Virgin Islands Department of Health (VIDOH), is based. St. Croix has a population of 50,601 people according to the 2010 census conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, and there are a limited number of agencies providing services for people suffering with mental illness or substance abuse addictions. According to a 2008 report by the Disability Rights Center of the Virgin Islands, care and rehabilitation services for people with mental illness is provided through the VI Department of Health and the Territory’s hospitals.
A recent bill proposal from the Virgin Islands Legislature show statistics from the VIDOH that indicate approximately 700 people are registered with the department to receive behavioral health outpatient services, but many other individuals with severe mental illnesses who require extended care are sometimes sent stateside to be treated. The Territory’s two hospitals can only provide very short-term intake options for people needing acute mental health care. Chronic care services are provided through outpatient clinics across the Territory under the VI Department of Health as referenced in the infographic shown. See Figure 1.1
Local lawmakers recently introduced a pair of bills in order to address the challenges of mental illness facing the Territory. One proposal, Bill 32-0085 amends the VI law to extend the time an individual can be detained in the case of mental health emergency commitments. That proposal was passed and adopted in July 2017. More recently, Bill 32-0247 introduced in August, seeks to redirect $3 million in funding to establish a mental health facility on St. Croix. That proposal passed out of its committee, but still needs to go to the Rules and Judiciary committee, and then the full Senate body for approval.
According to a June press release from HHS, the federal grant FHC received will allow community centers to expand their services. Specifically, the funds should be used to utilize more evidence-based strategies to combat substance abuse and mental health disorders, and it will include the expansion of medication-assisted treatment.