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Intellectual Disability Mental Health


History of the Division
The first recognized mental health programmes for children and adults with intellectual disability in the Western Cape Province were initiated by Professor Vera Grover, a University of Cape Town Psychologist and then Director of the Child Guidance Clinic. During a career spanning the 1950s to 1980s, she was the forerunner in clinical and public service provision, teaching and advocacy for people with intellectual disability. Professor Grover provided scholarly leadership to the services for individuals with intellectual disability, who were largely incarcerated, principally at Alexandra Hospital, but also beyond hospital settings. Another noted UCT academic and clinician, the late Emeritus Professor Frances Ames, Professor of Neurology, dedicated a number of years to service and teaching at Alexandra Hospital in the late 1980s and 1990s. In 2012, the refurbished Alexandra Hospital Outpatient Department was dedicated to Professor Ames.

A bequest from Vera Grover allowed a Professorship in Intellectual Disability to be established at UCT in collaboration with Alexandra Hospital in 1992 (initially referred to as the “Chair of Mental Handicap”, reflecting terminology of the era). Although there were preceding academic activities, the Division as such was formalized in 1995, with the first incumbent in the Vera Grover Chair being Prof Chris Molteno. After an invaluable contribution to the Intellectual Disability service, Prof Colleen Adnams retired in 2017. Prof Sharon Kleintjes currently heads the Division. 
In 2012 the Division established an MPhil in Intellectual Disability Mental Health, open to postgraduate multidisciplinary health professionals who are working in the field and are registered with the HPCSA. 

The Division’s clinical service platform is based at two regional Psychiatric Hospitals, Alexandra Hospital in Maitland and Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital in Mitchells Plain. The Groote Schuur UCT Department accommodates the Vera Grover Chair, non-patient related research activities and access to general Departmental administrative support. Alexandra Hospital provides for people with intellectual disability and the Lentegeur Intellectual Disability Service functions within the general Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital. The establishments have approximately 300 and 250 Intellectual Disability Service (IDS) beds respectively; Alexandra Hospital has 34 acute beds and Lentegeur Hospital IDS has 15 child and adolescent beds. Both provide outpatient services and medium- and long-term care for over 400 patients in a number of wards. Although nearly 500 adults with intellectual disability were de-institutionalised from both hospitals in 2008-2009, many with severe and profound intellectual disability remain in long-term care, a legacy and indictment of the era of institutionalisation and custodial care of people with mental illness and intellectual disabilities. No new long-term patients are admitted for