Tamil Nadu

Drive to rescue mentally ill homeless persons

The Greater Chennai Corporation on Thursday launched a drive, along with the Health and Family Welfare Department, to rescue and rehabilitate mentally ill homeless persons in the city.

The Corporation and the National Health Mission have opened an emergency care and recovery centre with 50 beds, where persons with mental illness can be treated. It was inaugurated at the Communicable Diseases Hospital at Tondiarpet. Six buses were flagged off, two each for the north, south and central zones. Two rescue teams of shelter coordinators and a psychiatrist travelled to the areas earmarked in each zone.

Persons who were rescued were taken to a school in each zone, where RT-PCR tests were carried out. They would be taken to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital if they tested positive for COVID-19, and if not, to the emergency care and recovery centre.

Ahead of this drive, however, activists raised concerns about rounding them up and argued that it was not an effective method of psycho-social rehabilitation. Archana Sekar, a city-based activist, said in a representation to the Corporation that such drives were a violation of constitutional rights and the rights guaranteed to them by the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017. She called for a plan which was more subjective, sustainable, sensitive and prompt.

Corporation Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi clarified that all the stakeholders were particular that any homeless person, including those with mental illness, should be treated with respect and care. “The National Health Mission and the Health Department are very particular that nobody should be picked up forcibly or without their consent.” “For the mentally ill who 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 said. He said the Health Department had also deputed psychiatrists to the drive.

Following Ms. Sekar’s representation, she was asked to address the volunteers 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 care process.

Health Minister Ma. Subramanian, too, said the volunteers were instructed not to forcibly round up anyone. “I accompanied a rescue team today and we rescued two mentally ill persons. We spoke to them, found out what they needed and then proceeded to bring them in,” he said.

The Minister said there were plans to extend this drive across the State, and the Health Department would engage with organisations working with the homeless and mentally ill to get their inputs.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 11:10:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/drive-to-rescue-mentally-ill-homeless-persons/article35618118.ece

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