New Coalition Forms To Address Mental Health in Virgin Islands

CRUZ BAY — A new group of advocates forming in the Virgin Islands to raise awareness of the issue of mental health conducted the first meeting of the Mental Health Outreach core team on August 6.

The new group wants to shed light on what has, until now, been a neglected subject, according to Attorney Archie Jennings, the chief attorney working with the Disability Rights Center of the Virgin Islands, who was among those attending the charter meeting of the outreach team.

A small group of St. John residents will continue the discussion Monday, Aug. 10, at Nazareth Lutheran Church, as part of a scheduled meeting of island clergy members.

Representatives of St. John Rotary, the Family Resource Center, volunteers working with the homeless and members of the faith community are expected to share some of particular challenges and needs on St. John.

One of the goals will be to create a five-year strategic plan for improving mental health services and resources in the territory, team member Johanna Bermudez said. The group also discussed comments and suggestions they have received so far about ways to connect with residents and get them thinking about what it means to live with mental illness in the Virgin Islands.

“If there are people out there, pushing for change, this is the time to get out there and tell their stories,” Jennings said.

Mental Health Outreach is a separate organization from DRCVI, Jennings explained, adding the groups hope to collaborate over common themes. Advocates hope their outreach efforts will culminate in policy suggestions they can present to lawmakers and other leaders in government.