Belize, October 29. - For decades, the psychiatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) have been the cornerstone of the mental health program in Belize. These nurses are now integrated into primary health care (PHC) services as part of a broader effort to integrate mental health care into the various levels of service delivery.
At the primary care level, some general health practitioners (GHPs) work in close collaboration with the PNPs. However, the limited skills to detect and manage mental health disorders among many practitioners is still an issue. To address this challenge, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) coordinated a training in the use of the mhGAP Intervention guide (mhGAP-IG).
The training provided primary health care personnel with tools and skills to diagnose and manage common mental disorders, which will enable them to carry out early detection and to deliver early interventions and treatment. Over 40 persons from all four health regions in Belize participated in the training.
The official ceremony was opened by Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services, and Dr. Jorge Polanco, PAHO/WHO´s focal point for mental health. After their remarks, Nurse Eleanor Bennett, the Mental Health Program Coordinator, presented the structure of the program, its current resources and the referral and counter referral processes. In addition, Nurse Bennett presented information from the Belize Health Information System and on mental health diagnosis made by primary health care during the previous year. These findings will serve as the baseline to monitor and evaluate the use of the mhGAP in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders in PHC centers in Belize.
Dr. Fidel Cuellar, a medical practitioner, trained in the use of the new version of the mhGAP-IG, and working in Belize, served as co-facilitator along with Dr. Claudina Cayetano, PAHO/WHO Regional Advisor on Mental Health.