Kerala taking baby steps towards implementing Mental Healthcare Act

This is part of the efforts to implement the Mental Healthcare Act 2017 which was notified last June.

Published: 13th September 2019 06:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th September 2019 06:04 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government has reconstituted the Kerala State Mental Health Authority (KSMHA) and created zonal Mental Health Review Boards in Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur and Kozhikode. 

This is part of the efforts to implement the Mental Healthcare Act 2017 which was notified last June. The Act that guarantees rights of people affected by mental illness also entrusts respective state governments to ensure facilities for rehabilitating them.

Sources at the Health Department said that state exchequer has to bear the cost of implementing the Act in letter and spirit. 

“The implementation of the Act is in various stages. While the reconstitution of the authority and formation of the review boards have been completed, the appointment of members might take time. But compared with other states, Kerala is way ahead in rolling it out,” said Dr Jayaprakashan K P, secretary, KSMHA. 

However, healthcare experts said the full-fledged implementation might take time due to the procedures involved with creation of posts and constitution of the board. 
“Take the case of the post of the chief executive officer as mandated under section 52 of the Act. The state government will first have to create it and then find a suitable person. It has been stipulated that the CEO should be one not below the rank of the Deputy Secretary,” said a source. 

At the same time, Dr T Sagar, consultant psychiatrist at the Mental Health Centre, Oolampara, Kozhikode, who was part of the three-member committee appointed by the state for preparing the draft rules of the Act, said the Mental Health Review Boards have been mandated under section 73 of the Act for a district or group of districts.

“The board will have to be headed either by the District Judge, or an officer of the state judicial services who is qualified to be appointed as District Judge or a retired District Judge who shall be the chairperson of the board. 

The state government will now have to find suitable candidates for the three zones,” said Dr Sagar. 
However, it is pointed out that to implement the provisions listed under Right of Persons with Mental Illness like half-way homes, sheltered accommodation and supported accommodation and the provision of setting up mental health establishment in the medical wing of at least one prison might put an additional burden on state’s coffers.

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