Experts have said that the state’s decision to allocate 1.4% of its health budget for implemention of schemes under the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) is insufficient.
Of the proposed Rs-8,195-crore health budget for 2017-2018, Rs141 crore has been allocated to NMHP. Last year too, a similar amount was allocated to the programme.
The funds under the NMHP are used at the four regional mental health hospitals — Thane, Pune, Ratnagiri and Nagpur. They are also used to implement the District Mental Health Programme, which falls under the NMHP.
Dr Sadhana Tayade, assistant director at the Directorate of Health Services, said that national programmes for non-communicable diseases, which include mental disorders, have not matured the way programmes for communicable diseases such as malaria and TB have.
The District Mental Health Programme aims at providing mental health services at the primary level. However, in Maharashtra, of the 35 districts, only 16 have the services.
“We are struggling to strengthen the human resources at districts so that the programme can be implemanted,” she said.
Doctors said that mental health disorders are chronic and may require institutionalisation- a facility which is provided by the state at the four regional hospitals.
Dr Soumitra Pathare, consultant psychiatrist and director of the Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy, said that the number of patients at regional mental hospitals — around 5,000 — is minuscule when we compare it to the number of people who require the services. “At the district level, we have to shift from facilities led by psychiatrists and train workers to identify common mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety that need more support and medications, ” he said.
A doctor from KEM Hospital, Parel, said that if the state was to implement the new mental healthcare bill, it will have to increase the allocation to at least 4% of the total health budget.