Abstract: Perspectives on the Establishment of Community-Based Mental Health Facilities: The Case of Hong Kong (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Perspectives on the Establishment of Community-Based Mental Health Facilities: The Case of Hong Kong

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Vincent Lee, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Daniel W.L. Lai, PhD, Chair Professor & Dean, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Alison X. Ou, MA, Research Assistant, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Yongxin Ruan, MSW, Doctoral Student, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Background: People with mental illnesses continue to come across stigmatization. Social work service providers and the government have been facing difficulties in balancing the needs between this vulnerable group and right to voice opposition among some people in the community facilities. Despite the fact that Hong Kong has a relatively well-established track record of mental health service delivery system, the establishment of community-based services has been a challenge. The Government-funded Integrated Community Centres for Mental Wellness (ICCMWs) are expected to provide community support services for people recovering from mental illnesses and other residents in the community. However, delay in the establishment of these centres largely due to community opposition has negatively affected service provision for people in need.

Objectives: This study examined the multiple perspectives of stakeholders involved in the establishment of Integrated Community Centres for Mental Wellness (ICCMWs) in Hong Kong so as to identify facilitating factors and barriers associated with the establishment of ICCMWs. It also aimed to identify effective ways to balance community opposition and the needs of clients with mental health concerns.

Methods: 74 individual interviews were conducted with stakeholders, including representatives of government departments, service operators, politicians, residents’ representatives, community activists, and service users to learn about their knowledge, experiences, and viewpoints associated with the establishment and site selection of ICCMWs.

Results: Interviews revealed that in many cases, neighborhood consultations for establishing ICCMWs took too long and were unable to facilitate consensus and gain support from residents. In some cases, the government decided to delay or withdraw siting plans in the face of strong public opposition, which was due mainly to bias and misunderstanding toward service users. However, the role of local politicians in mediating neighborhood opinions and the determination of the government in carrying out siting plans could contribute to a successful siting process.

Conclusion: It is recommended that stronger government interdepartmental collaboration should be developed to study the targeted neighborhoods and lobby stakeholders at earlier stages. This should include identifying key stakeholders, political and social dynamics and controversies, and community demographics. A protocol that specifies a specific time frame should be implemented to facilitate smooth and effective public consultation and the process of establishing ICCMWs.