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Gaming Association, Health Services join forces to battle gambling disorder

PARTNERSHIP — Pictured are Grand Bahama Health Services Representatives Valeria Burrows (second right); Kayla Hield (right); Bahamas Gaming Operation Association CEO Gershan Major (center) Grand Bahama Health Services Administrator, Sharon Williams (second left); and Psychologist Dr. Michelle Lundy receiving a cheque from the  Bahamas Gaming Operation Association for training and development of two clinicians working in the area of gambling disorder.  (PHOTO: JENNEVA RUSSELL)

The Bahamas Gaming Operations Association (BGOA) along with the Public Hospital Authorities (PMH), presented a $7,500 cheque to the Grand Bahama Health Services (GBHS), for the training of two employees to becoming internationally certified in the area of gambling disorder.

The cheque presentation took place at the Rand Memorial Hospital on Friday, July 5, where GBHS Administrator, Sharon Williams described the initiative as “upscale to improve the capacity of those managing the patients affected by the disorder.”

“Grand Bahama Health Services continually seeks to demonstrate our national pride throughout the year and that is through effectively providing the services necessary to care for our public and provide optimal plans for our community. In doing so, we are happy to engage with various community organizers to plan and improve our services. In particular, in this instance, we are recognizing our community engagement with the Bahamas Gaming Operations Associations, in expanding our plans and treatment for gambling disorders.

“This partnership is critical in ensuring that the challenges of gambling disorders and the affects on our community remain at the forefront of our plan and also is bought to the awareness of the people in our community.

“This present engagement is building capacity. Our initiative, where our partners, the Bahamas Gaming Board, is sponsoring training of two of our officers in international certification, working in the area of those with gambling disorder.

“This upscale will improve our capacity to effectively manage our clients in the northern region, and it will put us on par with our counterparts, Sandilands Rehabilitation Center, in having sufficiently trained clinicians to serve our public,” she said.

Bahamas Gaming Operations Associations Chief Executive Officer, Gershan Major noted that the importance of the presentation was to prevent individuals from being affected by the disorder.

“Today the Bahamas Gaming Operations Associations is pleased to partner with the Grand Bahama Health Services as part of our extended partnership with the Public Hospital Authorities and the Sandilands Rehabilitation Center in Nassau, to support the increase in building capacity in the area of gambling disorder.

“We are therefore delighted to highlight this immensely important partnership with GBHS, similar to what we did with the Sandilands Rehabilitation Center back in May of last year, to help screen, access and treat persons who may be most at risk in this form of entertainment.

“More importantly however, we want to prevent persons from becoming at risk, and like any other endeavor of leisure, we wish them to do so in moderation.

“We are very pleased to provide funding today to support two professional clinicians in the area of upscaling, in the amount of $7,500, here with the Grand Bahama Health Services team to become internationally certified in the area of treating persons with gambling disorder.”

Major informed the course will be done through University of Minnesota at the Duluth Center for Economic Development and North American Training Institute.

He said the online courses are 60 hours with supplemental campus workshop visitation.

“This initiative is fully aligning to the domestic gaming industries, robust responsible gaming policy, whose programs are standardized across all operated members. The industry continues to work with our key industry partner stakeholders like GBHS.

“Additionally, the BGOA recognizes that in a highly regulated environment, and in keeping with international best practices, it is obliged to ensure a safety measure was not only put in place, but expanded to help those patrons who may require professional intervention at no cost to them.

“We have also increased our awareness and education campaign regarding, encouraging persons to respond and to prevent others from becoming at risk when engaging in this form of entertainment.”

The Chief Executive Officer explained the BGOA has had several responsible gaming town hall meetings and addiction awareness symposiums across several major family islands including Freeport, Grand Bahama.

He shared they plan to extend the national conversation in the coming weeks and months ahead to Eleuthera, Long Island, Andros, San Salvador, and of course East and West Grand Bahama before the end of 2019.

“We have already established a one-on-one counseling journey service in Nassau at our office and will be seeking to do the same in Grand Bahama as a result of this most important partnership.

“We will be expanding our safety net to include the church community and representatives from the Department of Social Services. So, we are very delighted that today two clinicians will become certified,” he concluded.

Clinical Psychologist Michelle Lundy briefly remarked on the importance of mental health and the precautions needed for prevention.

“One may wonder why it is important to have physicians involved in this initiative and it is because addiction or problem gambling is considered in the diagnostic and statistical manual on mental health illness.

“It is very important that we raise awareness and educate when it relates to our mental health.

“Whenever our mental health suffers, we as a community or a country suffers.

“The very definition of mental health speaks to coping, functioning and, it speaks to being productive in our jobs and in our relationships.

“If persons have poor mental health, they are not able to do these things. Problem gambling or gambling addiction directly affects our mental health.

“We must continue to raise awareness.We must continue to assist wherever we can, so that we can have a productive and healthy community.”