Medical vans may face shutdown

The two vans which pick mentally ill patients from the homes and city streets and bring them to the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences may be grounded if authorities continue to disagree on who has to pay for the service.

According to IHBAS authorities, the issue which they are facing is whether the Mobile Mental Health Units should be funded by the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) or by the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP). Currently, the NRHM funds the vans.

Dr Nimesh G Desai, director of IHBAS, said, “The two MMHUs stand to be discontinued due to problems of where the funds would come from.”

Desai told Deccan Herald that while bureaucrats in both the departments have been doing their best to solve this problem, it is becoming a victim of the same bureaucratic procedure and system.

IHBAS, an autonomous body funded jointly by Union Ministry of Health and the Delhi government, caters to mentally ill patients in and around the capital. While the NRHM has been funding the two vehicles for years now, the role of NMHP comes in the picture as the programme was launched to ensure availability and accessibility of mental healthcare for all. Desai, however, expressed hope that the problem would be sorted out and the services would be allowed to continue without interruption.

While the hospital manages with only the two available MMHUs, ideally there should be 20-25 units in the capital, with minimum of two in each district, said Desai.

The mobile mental health units, one-of-its kind in the country, pick up mentally ill people from the streets or homes on being alerted. At times, some of these patients are also found locked or chained for long periods.

The rescue operations are not easy due to the stigma attached to the problem and the unwillingness of the patients and their relatives to acknowledge it. The MMHUs also hold regular camps to create awareness on mental health.

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