Mental Healthcare in West Africa

In 2023 Eugene Southtowne Rotary implemented support of Association Saint-Camille (ASC) de Lellis in West Africa. ASC, an NGO, is a comprehensive mental health care provider in Benin, Ivory Coast and Togo. This project addresses core values of Rotary including the prevention and treatment of illnesses, saving mothers and children and providing access to free and low-cost healthcare in developing areas. 

Without treatment, these patients are often found unhoused or chained. They are banished from their families due to a traditional belief that they are possessed by spirits or that the disorder is contagious. Bringing evidence-based treatments and family awareness efforts assist ASC in restoring dignity to their lives and in breaking the chains of stigma for the mentally ill in West Africa. 

San Miguel group
San Miguel painting

Eugene Southtowne Rotary will help finance essential medications for 14,000 residential patients with chronic mental illness and seizure disorders (epilepsy) in treatment at ASC. ASC is both a comprehensive outpatient and residential program with integrated general medicine and maternal healthcare clinics. Medication must be imported and costs an average of $900,000 per year for 125,000 consultations. ACS is unique in accepting all patients regardless of ability to pay. If affordable, patients are asked to pay $2.00 per month for medications.  The general health and maternity clinics are open to the general public. The first addiction center in the region by ASC is highly anticipated to meet an essential need.   

ASC has been recognized with international humanitarian awards. It was founded by Gregoire Ahongbonon who opened the first clinic in 1991 in Ivory Coast. The peer-counseling model has been approved by the World Health Organization.  

Jocelyn W. Bonner, MD, a Southtowne member and retired psychiatrist, is an advocate for ASC through the interest group Treatment Not Chains. She toured the clinics in Benin in 2020. Her goals are to increase awareness, recruit volunteers, and arrange health care professionals on rotation visits. Also, to encourage academic research, secure material donations of medications and medical supplies, and raise funds for projects that promote ASC’s self-sufficiency. Please contact Jocelyn for more information.        

San Miguel group
San Miguel group