The Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (IMHANS) in Kozhikode has been selected by the Union Health Ministry for its Rs.30-crore project for setting up a Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Mental Health, under the National Mental Health Plan.

Even though IMHANS had not figured anywhere in the all-India rating for the choice of mental health institutions to be developed as CoEs, the project was awarded to the institute after the State government pushed through a revised proposal that the IMHANS and the Department of Psychiatry at the Kozhikode Medical College be considered as a single entity for the CoE scheme.

Kerala was one of the 11 States in the country chosen by the Union Health Ministry to start Centres of Excellences in Mental Health. But the State’s prospects for securing this prestigious project had been in serious jeopardy with the government pushing the cause of IMHANS on one side while on the other, intense political lobbying was on to secure the project for the Mental Health Centre in Thiruvananthapuram.

It was in 2006 that the Union Health Ministry announced its proposal to set up Centres of Excellence in mental health in 11 States in the country. The scheme (Scheme A) is intended for manpower development in the field of psychiatry, to tide over the acute shortage of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, psychiatric nurses and psychiatric social workers across the country. The scheme’s accent is on bringing out qualified professionals as the Centre intends to launch District Mental Health Programmes across 500 districts in the country by the end of the Eleventh Plan.

IMHANS, which was set up in 1983 on the Kozhikode Medical College campus, had been envisaged as an autonomous institution, to be developed on the lines of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore. But despite doing excellent work in community mental health and rehabilitation programmes, IMHANS has till date remained a mere appendage of the Kozhikode MCH as the government could not find any funds for developing it.

The State government thus saw a good opportunity when the CoE scheme was announced, and thus chose to promote the cause of IMHANS.

The Union Health Ministry has awarded IMHANS the CoE scheme on the condition that it will immediately set about creating new posts, which should be filled up within six months. The Ministry has also made it conditional that in the next academic year itself, IMHANS should be able to start PG courses in Psychiatry, M.Phil programmes in Clinical Psychology and Psychiatric Social Work and Diploma in Psychiatric Nursing.

The Ministry has also asked the State government to vet the estimates for construction activities required for IMHANS by a government agency. An amount of Rs. 5.2 crore will be released as the first instalment of the Rs. 30-crore project.

Rs. 2.94-crore scheme

Meanwhile, the Department of Psychiatry at Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, which had actually emerged second in the all-India rating to be the best choice for winning the CoE status, has now been chosen for a Rs. 2.94-crore project (Scheme B) for manpower development.

Among all the States that vied for the CoE scheme, Kerala is the only State which has secured both Scheme A (Rs. 30 crore) as well as Scheme B (Rs. 2.94 crore) for manpower development.