“EMPOWERMENT BUDGET” WILL ENHANCE MENTAL WELLNESS AND BENEFITS OF SECURITY PERSONNEL, STRENGTHEN NATIONAL DRUG PREVENTION PROGRAM

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, DECEMBER 13TH, 2016 (PRESS SEC) — Senator the Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett, in her inaugural budget presentation before the National Assembly on Thursday, December 8th, 2016, heralded the 2017 Budget as an “Empowerment Budget.” The Senator noted, for instance, that Officers working in the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force, St. Kitts-Nevis Defence Force, Her Majesty’s Prison and Fire & Rescue Services would now be paid in the same manner as other Public Servants for their qualifications.

Senator Byron-Nisbett, who is a strong proponent of educational advancement, holds a Master of Science Degree in Computer Information Systems from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Information Systems Management from the University of South Florida.

“Mr. Speaker, we also see the idea of Empowerment through the simplest gesture of having our hard-working officers and soldiers being compensated for their hard work,” the Senator said, adding that, “Even on their days off, they commit the time and effort to come in to make sure that they are able to fight crime as needed in our society, and now they will be compensated for using their time off.” The 2017 Budget also makes provision for facilitating the payment of on-call allowances to nurses who are called upon to work beyond their regular shift.

Senator Byron-Nisbett continued, “Mr. Speaker, even more encouraging is the fact that our police and defence forces will be afforded the opportunity to have a psychologist and trained counselor at their disposal.” Driving home the importance of counseling services for the security forces, the Senator also said that, “We just this week opened the Mental Health Day Treatment Facility, and the importance of mental wellness was expressed over and over at that opening. It was also expressed that one of the major causes of mental illness is stress and the way people cope with stress.”

Senator the Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett said she was “most encouraged” that the Team Unity Government is implementing preventative strategies, which have “the potential of transforming the mindset and, by extension, the lives of so many young people in our society.”

Mrs. Byron-Nisbett, who took the Oath of Allegiance on Wednesday, October 26th, 2016 at Government House at the age of 35 years old, is very interested in children’s and parenting issues. At the time of her swearing-in, the Senator’s three children – two boys and a girl – were eight years old, five years old, and eight months old.

Mrs. Byron-Nisbett serves as a role model not just for her children, but also for those throughout St. Kitts and Nevis – and it is clear from her presentation in the National Assembly last week that she welcomes serving as an advocate for each and every one of them.

The Senator continued her budget presentation: ““Mr. Speaker, as much as this budget focuses on empowerment, we must note that this cannot be achieved if there are no other mechanisms in place that support this charge through prevention and care…Mr. Speaker, in 2013, the National Council on Drug Abuse Prevention in collaboration with the Ministry of Education carried out the 4th Secondary School Drug Prevalence Survey. The results, for me, were extremely alarming, Mr. Speaker. The survey revealed that roughly six out of every 10 secondary school students surveyed perceived that drugs are available in their schools. Seventy-five percent of the students were of the opinion that students bring drugs to school. Almost 50 percent of the respondents reported that they had seen other students using drugs around the school environment. Forty-two percent indicated that they have used illegal drugs at least once. Mr. Speaker, these results are alarming. These results indicate that there is great need for preventative measures to be put in place to ensure that we are able to curtail the effects of drug abuse on our young population.”

To this end, Senator Byron-Nisbett said last Thursday that the 2017 Budget would provide for a full-time Drug Prevention Officer at the National Council on Drug Abuse Prevention. The Drug Prevention Officer will assist the Director of the National Council on Drug Abuse Prevention with presenting educational materials, evaluating and monitoring prevention and intervention programs, and offering technical assistance to schools.

The Director, Ms. Karimu Byron, previously served as de facto Drug Prevention Officer at the National Council on Drug Abuse Prevention, juggling the role with her administrative responsibilities. Thirty-two-year-old Ms. Karimu Byron, who is a University of the West Indies-certified drug treatment specialist with a background in psychology and behavioural health care, joined the National Council on Drug Abuse Prevention as its Director in March of 2012 under the previous administration.

Speaking today, Tuesday, December 13th, with the Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ms. Karimu Byron, who is Senator the Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett’s sister, explained what the role of a Drug Prevention Officer entails. “It would include a lot of education and public awareness about the effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain and body, as well as society as a whole.”

Ms. Byron continued: “We [at the National Council on Drug Abuse Prevention] do a lot of public education awareness, which includes what we call psycho-educational group sessions and presentations. We also assist some institutions to actually develop a full drug prevention program of their own…so we would have meetings with either the school or another institution to find out what their needs and specific challenges are, and based on that initial assessment we develop a logic framework with activities, objectives and outcomes in order for them to fully establish and carry out a drug prevention program over a period of time…We offer crisis intervention and give referrals if they need drug treatment services for anyone.”

The National Council on Drug Abuse Prevention came into being by law in December of 2000 [via the National Council on Drug Abuse Prevention Act, 24 of 2000, in force December 8th, 2000 – 16 years to the day that Senator the Honourable Byron-Nisbett spoke about it in her presentation]. It became operational in July of 2001. Dr. Milton Whittaker is its Chairman and Mr. Dennis Michael Morton, J.P. is its Vice Chairman.

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