New Cleanup, Mental Health Initiatives Discussed in Weekly Briefing

The St. Thomas-St. John administrator's office will lead a cleanup of the Savan area on St. Thomas. (Source file photo)
The St. Thomas-St. John administrator’s office will lead a cleanup of the Savan area on St. Thomas. (Source file photo)

St. Thomas-Water Island Administrator Avery Lewis said his office will conduct an aggressive cleanup of the Savan area on St. Thomas, starting Monday, Oct. 21 and running through Saturday, Oct. 26.

The announcement was made Monday at the weekly Government House news briefing, along with a report of a behavioral health initiative that connects residents to services within the community.

The administrator’s office, working in conjunction with Public Works, Waste Management Authority, and private partners, will clean the Savan neighborhood during the week. Residents are encouraged to put out household and bulk waste (refrigerators, stoves, etc.) for pick-up, Lewis said.

As much as can be put in trash bags should be, he said.

Starting at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, residents can join in throughout the rest of the afternoon, Lewis said. Understanding that residents work during the week, Lewis said his crews will do much of the heavy lifting Monday through Friday, but on Saturday, the entire community should get involved.

Asked whether the program will extend to other areas around the island, Lewis said yes, and explained they will also be done in conjunction with private entities.

Shifting gears, Government House Communications Director Richard Motta’s updates on the Health Department’s ongoing efforts to improve local behavioral health services – born out of Gov. Albert Bryan’s recent state of emergency declaration for mental health in the territory – included several new steps forward. A director, Renan Steele, has been named, and last week, the department resumed operations at its “Clubhouse” on St. Croix, which Motta described as a “sanctuary” for residents with behavioral health or substance abuse issues.

The department also continued rolling out the federally funded Encounter Program, which officially launched in May. According to Motta, the program enables Health workers to provide outreach to the community and, in conjunction with other government and private agencies, evaluates residents, then connects them to the services they need.

Bryan’s state of emergency proclamation was issued about seven months ago and since then, Health officials have said they are looking “aggressively” at behavioral health issues – including drug and alcohol use, or a failure to seek adequate treatment – that often lead to more developed problems.

Residents can attend a behavioral health forum hosted by the department beginning at 6 p.m. Friday in the Charlotte Amalie High School auditorium.

During Monday’s briefing, Motta said Bryan also convened a meeting of his Workforce Development Board and charged members with improving opportunities for workers and employers throughout the territory, including initiatives to grow a more “educated and skilled” workforce and that facilitate “better jobs and higher wages.”