Proposed Legislation Seeks to Address Mental Health System Deficiencies


Senator Kurt Vialetis the sponsor of a bill that would address one of the challenges facing the U.S. Virgin Islands’ mental health care system.  The former chair of the senate committee on Health and Hospitals in the 31stLegislatureis proposing bill number 33-0024, an act to require the Department of Human Servicesand the Department of Healthto solicit proposals for the selection of a management company to partner with the Government of the Virgin Islands to provide administrative oversight services for assisted living and mental health facilities in the Virgin Islands.

“In trying to deal with the mental health population, I think it was necessary for us to actually go   off-island and view other facilities that are trying to deal with their mental health population, so I visited Larkin health care systemin South Florida,” remarked Sen. Vialet.  “They have a number of facilities and also have contracts with the federal government to take care of mentally ill patients.” Sen. Vialet added that some of off-island agencies currently housing V.I. patients, have expressed an interest in relocating those services to the Virgin Islands.   “They’re saying that we don’t need to come there and privately run it and have all of our people working.  We can hire the people of the Virgin Islands. We can hire a management team, make sure it’s CMS-certifiedand begin to provide that service on the island.  So instead of you paying us a million dollars in South Florida, you could pay 500 thousand in the Virgin Islands, and you also be employing your own individuals who live on the island.”

During the senator’s visit to Florida with local health officials, he noted that the facilities they visited were CMS-certified, and that makes a difference in costs for staffing and support.

“We went and we visited a number of facilities, and there was one common component…every single facility was CMS-certified.  And being CMS-certified was able to relieve some of the burden off of the central government.  When you look at all our facilities, whether it’s living assisted facility for the elderly or those who are disabled… Herbert Grigg, the Schulterbrandt facility, and Queen Louise… when we look at all of those facilities, none are CMS-certified. So, the government was putting up all of the money.  If we’re able to get our facilities CMS-certified, then we’ll be able to get that federal reimbursement of 55%.   So I’m looking at how can we move our facilities to a next level and relieve some of the burden from the government of the Virgin Islands in terms of the monies that they’re paying right now.”

Senator Vialet also has a plan to staff the facilities and put people to work.   “I just funded the master’s in social work (MSW) at U.V.I.because that’s also a component that’s going to go right there.  In looking at those facilities just about everybody I spoke to had a MSW, and they were certified, and they working in mental health, in living assisted facilities and then I realized we have a lot of individuals who have gone away to college and majored in psychology, bachelor’s in psychology and now they don’t really have a job because you need a master’s or a doctorate, so providing this master’s in social work will create that group of individuals that are then able to expand into Human services, into mental health, into the hospital, into the correctional system so it’s a vision in different areas that is trying to come together to meet the overall goal of being able to provide services for those in the Virgin Islands who need the help the most.”

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