Halfway Home stuck half way between idea and execution

Serving a cruel sentence: A majority of inmates of the Institute of Mental Health at Erragadda who have recovered are languishing in the discharge committee ward.

Serving a cruel sentence: A majority of inmates of the Institute of Mental Health at Erragadda who have recovered are languishing in the discharge committee ward.   | Photo Credit: G. RAMAKRISHNA

With zero headway in construction of the 150-bed facility, government officials scramble to make alternative arrangements as March 30 deadline approaches

A ‘Halfway Home’ for those who have partially or fully recovered from mental illness was supposed to be ready by March 30 this year, but it seems like a distant dream now. Construction work on the 150-bed facility has not even been initiated yet.

As per recent statistics, there are 158 inmates at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Erragadda, who are fit to be discharged but are languishing in the discharge committee ward of the institute for multiple reasons, which include reluctance of their families to accept them back or lack of clarity on their house address.

Days run into years as they continue to be confined within tall walls and behind iron grills round the clock. Their desperation to lead a life in community is hardly missable as they repeatedly enquire about their discharge with the staff, psychiatrists, nurses and visitors.

For those with little hope of returning to their families, Halfway Home would be an alternative to accommodate them. As a temporary home for people with physical, mental and emotional disabilities, the home is expected to help them learn necessary skills to reintegrate into society. They would be imparted skills to earn a livelihood apart from receiving mental health services as and when required.

On pause

In Telangana, apart from the IMH, there is no other facility to accommodate those who are declared fit to be discharged.

The need for a Halfway Home gained momentum when the Supreme Court, while hearing a petition filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, directed governments of all States and Union Territories to furnish a roadmap for setting up the homes.

Following this, former Chief Secretary of Telangana, S.K. Joshi, directed officials in July2019 to chalk out a plan for the facility. Officials from Department for Disabled and Senior Citizens visited and selected a three-acre land parcel abutting the IMH.

A government order issued by the department on December 28 last year states that the Halfway Home would be established by March 30. IMH authorities had also written to Hyderabad Collector in January to allot the selected land for the purpose.

According to guidelines issued by the Department for Empowerment of People with Disabilities for setting up of such homes, a social worker, a visiting psychiatrist and a general physician and an occupational therapist among others have to be allotted for every 25 inmates.

NGOs to the rescue

With a little over a month left for the deadline to expire, even if the authorities choose an existing building for the Halfway Home, workforce, including social workers, have to be identified or appointed at the earliest.

Director of Department for Disabled and Senior Citizens, B. Shailaja said the three-acre land and a budget of ₹9 crore for the construction have been approved. However, since the March 30 deadline for the Halfway Home “cannot be met”, those who have recovered will be rehabilitated in the homes of NGOs, she explained. “We are in the process of identifying the NGOs,” Ms. Shailaja added.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 7:53:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/halfway-home-stuck-half-way-between-idea-and-execution/article30907176.ece

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