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It resolved to do “whatever that is possible”
“Rehabilitation is one of our biggest concerns”
CHENNAI: The State government has constituted a committee to supervise and monitor the functioning of the Institute of Mental Health, here, and in its first meeting recently, drew up the outline of a step-by-step improvement schedule for the Institute.
The High Court of Madras had ordered that a nodal committee be formed to monitor the functioning of the IMH, headed by the Health Secretary and comprising members of various other health departments including the District Mental Health Programme, city-based psychiatrists, and the Chief Engineer (buildings), Public Works Department, R.Satianathan, IMH Director said.
Principal Secretary, Health, V.K.Subburaj, explained that during the meeting, it was resolved to do “whatever that is possible.” For instance, orders have been placed for extra cots for the patients, repairs are being commissioned for the old buildings, 120 paramedical staff and cooks have been appointed and further recruitment of social workers is on. A rural outreach centre has been established in Injambakkam, and another is planned in Theni, in order to decentralise mental health care and take the burden off the IMH.
“We have also enhanced the dietary allotment for the patients, as it was an important issue that was being brought up by NGOs and during the litigation. Earlier it used to be Rs.13, now it has been increased to over Rs.20,” Mr.Subburaj told The Hindu.
During the meeting, a demand had been made to double this amount. The Committee also examined proposals to take up public-private partnerships to enhance infrastructure within the campus and also to provide patients who have been cured jobs or opportunities for vocational education in sheltered workshops.
“Rehabilitation is one of our biggest concerns. Since January 2009, we have sent 104 male patients and 65 female patients home. But it is like a revolving door – 20 to 30 per cent of our patients relapse and probably land up here again,” Dr.Satianathan explained.
Then there are others, such as Sriram from Madurai who came to the IMH four years ago, whose families have given fake addresses and it is impossible to take the patient back home, he added.
With those being sent back home, social workers found that stigma is still very high and therefore the unwillingness to take care of their kin. “Only if the primary caregivers – mother, father, in some cases the brother, are around is it possible to place our cured patients within their homes,” Sarada Menon, who has headed the IMH, said. For instance, when social workers of IMH took Varalakshmi back to her sister’s home, they were turned away. Though they left Varalakshmi behind that day, the next morning she was back at IMH.
Among those cured, some of them are “near normal” and may have only some cognitive problems that does not affect their productivity; but even among those whose efficiency is affected, some kind of skilled or semi-skilled vocation is possible, she added.
Dr.Satianathan said that the IMH was now trying to place its cured-but-unable-to-go-home residents in institutions run by NGOs. “We have our vocational training programmes on campus. Our patients also go to workshops run by Lords’, Guild of Service, Shantivanam, Vishranthi, Zonta Club and Little Drops among others. We are trying to see how they can progress there and the possibilities of replicating the models if they prove to be successful.”
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