As 2023 began, a major theme in national media coverage of mental health care in Costa Rica was a shortage of staff and resources for mental health in the public system. The outlook is bleak: still reeling from the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic on both medical services and public coffers, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social still faces funding shortages delayed projects that include the implementation of the National Policy on Mental Health, a problem we explored last year in our special edition on this topic.
However, a recent story shared by Puntarenas Se Oye with information published by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) highlights one initiative in the Central Pacific to address the problem, at least on the level of infrastructure.
Puntarenas Se Oye reports that a community meeting with Caja authorities at the Max Terán Valls Hospital in Quepos on Feb. 3 examined strategies to improve health services in the Central Pacific region. According to the piece, Caja President Marta Eugenia Esquivel Rodríguez and Medical Director Randal Alvarez Juárez were both on hand to discuss the region’s health care challenges with citizens.
One completed project that was discussed at the meeting used shipping containers to create low-cost, quick new facilities for services including psychological appointments, where privacy is critical. Puntarenas Se Oye reported that “the shipping containers project in the Garabito Health Area sought to improve appointment facilities for psychology and social work,” as well as for storage and other administrative processes.
A video published by the Caja in January 2020, when the work began, shows how the 270 square meters of appointment spaces and administrative offices were designed. As the project began, the Caja pointed to the low environmental impact of this quick solution, as well as the ease of compliance with Law 7600, which regulates access for people with disabilities in Costa Rica.
Are these new facilities improving the quality and efficiency of psychological services for residents of Garabito, and in other areas of the country where this is being implemented—including Monteverde? How much of the country’s long wait times for psychological and psychiatric appointments are related to infrastructure, and how much is caused by a sheer lack of personnel—a problem La Nación showcased in January? (The national daily reported that in 2013, the country’s national psychiatric hospital had 42 psychiatrists; today, it has only 26 “to face an explosive demand that exceeds 20,000 consultations per year on in the Emergency Service.” )
If you are a journalist covering this topic, we’d love to hear from you. And if you live in a rural area and have information about mental health care wait times—or successful initiatives to reduce them—let us know what it looks like in your region.
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Part of El Colectivo 506’s mission is to support Costa Rica’s rural media. As part of this effort, as we begin 2023, we are working to regularly highlight stories from journalists reporting on rural areas. If you’re a rural journalist or are interested in efforts to support constructive and solutions journalism in Costa RIca, join our Network 506 (Red 506) right here.