Drive to rescue and rehabilitate mentally-ill homeless persons begins

The Greater Chennai Corporation launched a drive to rescue and rehabilitate mentally ill homeless persons in the city along with the Health and Family Welfare department and the National Health Mission on Thursday. Ahead of this drive, however, activists in the city had raised concerns about how rounding them up en-masse will infringe upon their rights and argued that it is not an effective method of psycho-social rehabilitation.

Archana Sekar, a city-based activist, represented the Greater Chennai Corporation and said that “such drives are a violation of the concerned persons' constitutional rights and rights guaranteed by the Mental Health Care Act, 2017.”

Ms. Sekar said “during such mass drives, several homeless persons or shabbily dressed persons which include persons with disabilities and homeless migrant labourers who do not speak the local tongue are picked up on suspicion of being mentally ill. The team engaged to round up people often lack the necessary training to engage with or respond to the needs of a person with mental illness,” and had also pointed out how persons with mental illnesses might not be subjected to a necessary proper assessment when rounded up en-masse.

Urging the agencies involved to cancel such proposed drives, Ms. Sekar said “they should consult all stakeholders to come up with a sustained, sensitive response to homeless persons with mental health issues and make a plan which is subjective, sustainable, and sensitive prompt in line with the Mental Health Care Act, 2017.”

However, Corporation Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi clarified that all the stakeholders involved were particular that any homeless person including those with mental illnesses who are found should be treated with respect and care. “Both Health Minister M.A. Subramaniam and State Mission Director, National Health Mission- Tamil Nadu Darez Ahmed are very particular that nobody should be picked up forcibly or without their consent,” he said.

Mr. Bedi said that the main aim of the drive was to help and rehabilitate the mentally ill and that a 50-bed facility at the Communicable Diseases Hospital in Tondiarpet had been established for the same in a joint scheme between the GCC and the NHM. “For mentally ill persons who are rescued during the drive and need treatment and rehabilitation, they will be taken to Tondiarpet where proper care will be given. We have ensured that the environment there is comfortable for them- there is a lot of space and the campus is a green and calm one,” he added. He said that the health department had also deputed psychiatrists to be a part of the drive and offer assistance.

Following Ms. Sekar's representation, she was also asked to address the volunteers who were involved in the drive about what to note about a person's surroundings that might help in intervening on the streets and treating engagement as a beginning of the care process.

For the drive, two rescue teams were assigned each for the North, South, and Central Zones. A total of six buses, two for each zone, with one assistant coordinator and two shelter coordinators as well as a psychiatrist would canvass the areas under their jurisdiction, and persons rescued would be taken to a school that has been earmarked in each zone where RT-PCR tests would be conducted. Depending on the COVID-19 test result, they would either be taken to RGGGH for treatment or would be taken for intervention and rehabilitation.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 4:49:25 PM |

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