Modern Psychiatric Treatment in a Caring Environment
Many patients arrive at a St. Camille treatment center from off the street or from having been chained. Upon arrival they are bathed, fed and given clean clothes. They receive an evaluation from a psychiatric nurse and are started on a course of medication if warranted.
Centers are typically staffed by a director, associate director, two nurses and two nursing aides. Because there are very few psychiatrists, training and supervision has been provided primarily by visiting psychiatrists from France and Canada. (In 2016, several mental health professionals from Quebec and France will be spending a year with St. Camille to support the staff.)
The philosophy of St. Camille is to provide a supportive environment where every person is treated with dignity and kindness. One of the innovative features of St. Camille’s model is that the treatment centers are almost entirely run by former patients who serve as directors, cashiers, nurses aides, cooks, drivers, security guards, etc. See photos of a treatment center in the Ivory Coast.
Recovery through work
Patients are housed at the centers for as long as necessary to allow them to return to their own homes. This can take weeks, months, or years. Once they are stabilized, patients who are not ready to return home can participate in rehabilitation programs through which they farm, sew, raise small animals, bake, weave, make mats or do hair. These skills build confidence and enable the patients to be productive upon return to their villages. See photos from a rehabilitation center in Benin.
support After Discharge
St. Camille successfully reintegrates 60-70% of their patients back into their home villages. However many need ongoing medication to remain stable. St. Camille works with local clinics to ensure ongoing access to medications. Nurses in the clinics receive training on psychotropic medications from French or Canadian psychiatrists who visit four times per year so that they can dispense and supervise medication distribution to patients who have been released from a treatment center. This system prevents a lot of relapses that would occur due to the long distances between the treatment centers and patients’ home towns. These nurses also conduct screening at the clinics and manage some of the less severe cases themselves. St. Camille has created a mobile team with an experienced nurse that travels between the local clinics to support the local nurses, bring medications, and accompany patients who need treatment to the nearest center.
LOCAL access to medications
St. Camille purchases medication from the state pharmacy. In Benin certain generic drugs are produced locally and psychotropic medications are ordered from India. The low income patients served by St. Camille are sold medications at a reduced rate of approximately $2.50 per month regardless of the type or quantity of drugs. Despite the use of low-cost, generic drugs and the revenue generated from patient payments, the cost of drugs is a significant on-going coast for St. Camille. As a result, Gregory has opened an account with the Bank of Africa to accept funds from aid organizations and donors for medications.
shift in attitudes about mental illness
In the regions where St. Camille works, it is rare to see people still in chains. Families, soldiers, police, and residents all know to bring people with mental illness to St. Camille. In fact, 95% of their new admissions come directly from the community or through the network of dispensaries throughout the country.
Slowly the stigma of mental illness is decreasing. Gregory actively uses many forums to demystify mental illness and combat prejudice. He speaks at gatherings of church members, church leaders, and university students. He reaches out to traditional “exorcists” and uses radio and television to educate people about mental illness as a medical condition that is treatable.