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New rules for mental health rehab centres

4-FEB-2012, K.P.M. Basheer

Draft rules to be submitted soon; centres will come under disabilities Act

Centres to be taken out of the ambit of Mental Health Act, Many private-run centres function ‘illegally’ 

: The State government is planning new procedures to bring on board hundreds of rehabilitation centres run by NGOs and philanthropic individuals, a situation unique to Kerala, and place them under the Social Welfare Department.

A draft set of rules, tentatively titled The Registration of Psycho-Social Rehabilitation Centres, has been formulated by the Social Department by invoking Section 73 of the Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities of Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 (the PWD Act).

The rules intend to take the mental health care homes and rehabilitation centres out of the purview of the Mental Health Act 1987 and bring them under the PWD Act.

“The rules, after consultations with the stakeholders, will be submitted to the government in a couple of weeks,” K.K. Mony, additional secretary in the Social Welfare Department, told The Hindu .

The Mental Health Act (which also created the State Mental Health Authority) mainly deals with mental health care hospitals and psychiatric nursing homes.

There is no separate law to govern rehabilitation centres. The result: hundreds of such centres function ‘illegally.’ The Mental Health Authority cannot issue licence to majority of rehabilitation centres because of legal lacuna.

In other States

The Mental Health Act does not recognise the fundamental differences between a mental health hospital and a mental health rehabilitation centre. States such as Tamil Nadu and Gujarat found a way out by bringing the mental health rehabilitation centres under the PWD Act whose definition of disabilities includes mental illness. The Kerala rules have borrowed some provisions from ’s.

The rules, in the first place, recognise the social reality of the existence, and need for, mental health care homes and rehabilitation centres.

The rise in the number of persons with mental illness and families’ tendency to go ‘nuclear’ have added to the relevance of such centres.

The public sector treatment facilities are clearly unequipped to handle the load.

The Kerala rules would include registration norms of the centres, criteria for inmates’ admission, accommodation, sanitation, and medical help among others.

Local community

The rules would also look into the functioning, funding, licensing, supervising, and monitoring of the centres. They would encourage the participation of the local community in the well-being of the inmates, Mr. Mony said.

Facilitated by the People’s Council for Social Justice, the first round of consultation with functionaries of care homes, social workers, and psychiatrists was held at Kochi on Tuesday.

Consultations

Two more consultations, one at Kannur and another at Thiruvananthapuram, would be held before finalising the draft, Mr. Mony said.

One major outcome of the rules would be that the Social Welfare Department, not the Health Department, would have the responsibility of licensing, supervising, and channelling government aid to the care homes and rehabilitation centres.


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