The Delhi government on Friday inaugurated the state’s first model half-way cum long-stay home for mentally ill people.
The 50-bed home on IHBAS (Institute of Human and Behavioural Sciences) campus is home to 42 people who were treated at the hospital.
Half-way homes are rehabilitation facilities, where people with mental illness can stay for one to two years after their treatment to help them reintegrate into the society. Long-stay homes, on the other hand, are meant for people who do not have families to go back to.
“The half-way home is kept like a house by the residents, with the support from the hospital being minimum because they have been treated and are here simply because they have nowhere to go,” said Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain.
The Delhi High Court in 2009 had directed the state to create half-way homes following a public interest litigation. However, the five court-mandated half-way homes that were constructed nearly three years ago are still not functional. They have been built to accommodate 120-150 people.
A technical committee, which was set-up on court directions, estimated in 2010 that nearly 12,000 to 15,000 people need residential rehabilitation facilities in Delhi.
“A major problem with government mental-health facilities is that there are several patients who languish in the hospitals even after their treatment is complete, their symptoms are under control and they can live on their own or with the help of a family member. We need more half-way and long-stay homes to help people get their lives back,” said Dr Nimesh Desai, director, IHBAS.
According to a writ petition submitted in the Supreme Court, just five mental health hospitals in India have more than 300 people, who are fit to be discharged, living in the hospital.
The hospital has been making efforts since its inception 20 years ago to prevent people from over-staying after treatment.
“Every year we receive at least 100 court-mandated mentally ill patients who are homeless. Had we not tried to rehabilitate them with their families, there would have been at least 2,000 long-stay people here who are fit to be discharged,” said Dr Desai.
After recovery, the hospital with its social workers makes a concerted effort in finding the families of the patients and taking them to their homes. “It is a myth that the mentally ill patients who live on the street do not remember where they lived. Once they are treated, almost all of them remember their homes, their families. We just make an effort to take them there,” said Dr Desai.