Community initiative for old St. James’ Church rectory
Wednesday 21 December 2022: Bermuda Hospitals Board’s Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute (MWI) is collaborating with Habitat for Humanity and the Anglican Church of Bermuda to provide community-based housing, programmes and support for people with mental health challenges.
The tripartite partnership project will see the old St. James’ Church rectory at Somerset Bridge redesigned and renovated as a residential facility. The repurposed residence will respect the historical nature of the property. It will also provide 24-hour, state-of-the-art treatment for those requiring mental health services, as well as community support from St. James’ Church congregants.
BHB Acting Chief Operating Officer Preston Swan, also vice president of clinical operations for MWI, said: “Research shows that the institutional model for mental health services is outdated. People with mental health needs have better outcomes when housed and supported in their local community, surrounded by their loved ones.
“Providing a stable rehabilitation model in the community helps to improve their quality of life and reduces the frequency of relapse and/or readmission to acute inpatient services.
“We are delighted at the interest and willingness of both Habitat Bermuda and the Anglican Church to partner with us to improve the lives of our clients.”
Habitat Bermuda Chair Sheelagh Cooper said: “It is the mission of Habitat for Humanity to build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. This project fulfils all these aims.
“We are grateful to have the opportunity to design and renovate the old St. James’ Church rectory to improve the lives of those with mental health challenges, and to be a part of an effort to decrease the negative stigma associated with mental illness on the island.
“The donor community has already shown a great deal of support as they realise the increased need for state-of-the-art psychiatric services in Bermuda. The project is expected to cost between $500,000 and $600,000, but we hope that cost can be significantly reduced with volunteer labour and donated materials from our always generous local building supply companies.”
Anglican Bishop of Bermuda Rev. Nicholas Dill said: “The Anglican Church of Bermuda has five marks of mission – to tell the gospel, to teach the faith, to tend and care for the vulnerable, to transform unjust structure, and to treasure and care for the earth.
“Enabling care of the vulnerable and sick, and ensuring they are treated with equal human dignity is part of the mission to tend and protect.
“In Bermuda, access to appropriate and adequate mental healthcare in a community that still has stigma attached to it, is a matter of justice. Where the vulnerable are denied such due to societal bias, the church is called to transform such structures in partnership with others. Recognising this, with the full support of the parish Vestry, we are pleased to offer the former rectory – Bridge House, at a nominal rent.”
The Bridge House project fits within the 2021-2026 MWI Directorate Plan, which provides a framework to support people with mental health needs in the community. The Plan aims to transform the way BHB provides mental health services. In addition to a physical realignment of where services are provided, the Plan aims to deliver modern, compassionate care using the recovery model principles, which are patient-centred and promote hope, empowerment and self-determination.
BHB Chief of Psychiatry Dr Anna Neilson-Williams said: “This facility is designated as a step away from the hospital system, and will offer integrated and interactive training and skill building programmes.
“It has been developed as an alternative to inpatient care for people with long-term psychiatric needs. Our primary aim is to help people achieve a level of functioning sufficient for success in a less supervised setting with less intensive services.”
BHB Deputy CEO Scott Pearman added: “Our commitment to integrate care and move it from institutions and into our communities is achieved through this tripartite partnership. BHB will manage the facility providing 24-hour staffing, which will include robust in-house recovery and enrichment programmes.
“This healthcare reform will not only help destigmatise care, but allow families to continue to embrace and support their loved ones in a community setting.”
Last year Habitat Bermuda successfully restored what is now the Transformational Living Centre for Families.
“The old St. James’ Church rectory is the second in a series of community-driven projects,” said Ms Cooper. “Our architectural team has already drawn up plans for the facility and will be submitting them to the Planning Department shortly.”
A community meeting was held in which local residents were informed and given an opportunity to ask questions and share their thoughts. The Anglican Church of Bermuda, BHB as well as Habitat Bermuda, were represented at the meeting. All three were pleased with the community support that the project received.
Pictured is (from left to right) in front of the old rectory: Anglican Bishop of Bermuda Rev. Nicholas Dill, Habitat Bermuda Chair Sheelagh Cooper, and Acting COO and VP of Clinical Operations (MWI) Preston Swan