Following a Supreme Court order earlier this month to implement rehabilitation policy for mentally challenged patients, the Maharashtra government is in talks with a Kerala-based NGO and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to provide home-based care to women once they are treated at mental hospitals.
A successful pilot project in Kerala, followed by Tamil Nadu and Assam, allowed mentally ill patients to live in rented flats in a group of four-five and start the process of mingling with society a year after hospitalisation. “These are female patients who are not accepted back by their family. We always had a concern that these patients have no exit pathway from institutional care,” said Lakshmi Narasimhan, research head at the Banyan, which works for mentally ill homeless people.
The organisation, founded by Vandana Gopikumar and Vaishnavi Jayakumar, has helped 166 women in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Assam to lead a life out of mental hospitals. Under the project, treated mentally challenged women are given an option to live with other treated patients in a home where a health worker looks after their needs. While some begin working again, others spend their day pursuing their hobbies.
The pilot project started in 2012 through funding by a private organisation. “When we compared these women with those still in institutional care, we found that development in former was more. They participated in community and coped better with disability,” Narasimhan said, adding that some women at these homes started tuition classes, while others took to painting as a hobby.
India has an estimated 150 million people suffering from mental illness, of which treatment care has reached only over 10 per cent. According to Professor S Parasuraman, director at TISS, TISS runs programme Tarasha in Mumbai to give vocational training to mentally ill women so that they can work and earn for themselves after treatment if their family does not accept them.
“We house 30 such patients in Nagpada. We have asked the state government for more space to house other patients, but nothing has been finalised,” Parasuraman said. He added that Hans Foundation has approved Rs 12 crore for this cause.
According to Dr Sadhana Tayade, joint director at the Directorate of Health Services, the proposal to create home-based care model for female patients has been received by the Banyan. “We are hopeful of starting it. The approval is pending,” Tayade said. Under the project, the state government would provide treatment to patients and hand them over to the Banyan to continue their rehabilitation process.
The state plans to start this as a pilot project in Mumbai and later in Aurangabad. There are four mental hospitals in Thane, Ratnagiri, Pune, and Aurangabad. At least 40 per cent patients in these mental hospitals are long-term patients who do not require active treatment but continue to stay since they have nowhere to go.