Maharashtra forms eight mental health review boards

Published on Dec 19, 2021 12:01 AM IST
Maharashtra has formed eight Mental Health Review Boards (MHRB) under the mandate of the Mental Healthcare Act (2017), which provides for a review board for each district in the country
Maharashtra forms eight mental health review boards (HT File)
Maharashtra forms eight mental health review boards (HT File)

Mumbai: Maharashtra has formed eight Mental Health Review Boards (MHRB) under the mandate of the Mental Healthcare Act (2017), which provides for a review board for each district in the country.

Starting February 2022, three of the boards will function from the state’s regional mental hospitals in Thane, Pune and Nagpur, while the other five will operate from Kolhapur, Nashik, Akola, Aurangabad, and Latur.

One of the board’s main functions will be to register, review, alter, modify or cancel an advance directive made by an individual. As per the Act, a mentally-ill person shall have the right to make an advance directive that states how he wants to be treated for the illness during a mental health situation and who his nominated representative shall be.

Each review board will be helmed by a chief judicial magistrate and include other members such as a medical practitioner, a psychiatrist, two recovered psychiatric patients or care-givers and a representative of the district collector or district magistrate or deputy commissioner among others.

“Before the 2017 Act was implemented, if a patient had to be admitted to a mental health facility, the relatives of the care giver would require an order from the magistrate. Now, the patients can be evaluated by the psychiatrists and the admission has to be informed to the review board,” said Dr Vijay Maskar, a medical officer with the Directorate of Health Services.

“The board can be approached for appeals, review admissions and look into conflicts if any,” he said adding that prior permission of the board has to be sought in case of a minor or a woman has to undergo Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT).

The state has issued appointment letters to members of the board who were chosen after calling for applications through advertisements followed by interviews.

Psychiatrist Dr Bharat Vatwani who has been appointed as the review board member for Thane district said that the boards will serve as checkpoints to ensure that patient’s rights are safeguarded.

Dr Sanjay Kumawat, a psychiatrist who practices in Thane and Mulund and has worked with the state health department for nearly three decades expressed concern about the lack of budgeting and the workload as only eight review boards will have to cater to 36 districts in the state.

“If implemented thoroughly, the boards will have an important role to play to ensure that patients don’t languish in institutions for a long time. For instance, the boards will have to mandatorily take an update on the number of days a patient spends in a facility and review the situation on a case-to-case basis,” said Kumavat.

“We will gradually cover all districts, but for now, we are working to make these eight boards functional from February,” a state health official said. “We are currently working out their remuneration and other logistics for their everyday functioning,” the official said.

The law came into force in 2017, repealing an earlier version, and offers wide-ranging protections of rights to persons requiring mental health care and services. According to a study in 2017 in Lancet Psychiatry, 14.3% of India’s population (or 197.3 million people) suffer from mental illness.

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