Mental Health Authority in a state of despair due to negligence from govt

Dr OK Murali Krishnan

Kottakal: Kerala State Mental Health Authority, the body that regulates the mental health care system in the state, has fallen in despair due to negligence on the part of the state government. The mandatory meeting of the body constituted by Gazette Notification in 2021 has not been held for a year. This negligence on the part of the concerned authorities arises despite Section 56 of the Mental Health Care Act directing four meetings to be held in a year.

Authority members also raised objections to an order issued on January 4 that establish a unilaterally appointed committee to identify and appoint members to the Mental Health Review Board. They alleged that the committee to find review board members to oversee mental health treatment consists of two undersecretaries and a doctor with no expertise in mental health care. The eminent psychiatrist and member of the authority Dr CJ John also sent e-mail to the Principal Secretary of Health describing this flaw. However, no reply has been received in this regard.

There are also complaints against the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority. Under Section 123 of the Mental Health Care Act, the Mental Health Authority is required to determine the qualifications and salary of the appointee. They appointed a deputy secretary unrelated to the health sector. In the order, the government inserted a new word 'administrative secretariat' in the provision of deputy secretary to the government.

This change made by the government was questioned by the psychologist Dr Basheerkutty and Fr George Joshua through a petition filed in the high court. Later, this addition from the government was overturned by ruling by Justice Sunil Thomas. He said the government should issue a new order within a month. However, no action was taken in this regard.

Earlier, the psychiatrists were holding key roles in the Mental Health Authority. It has been alleged that there are vested interests behind bringing those unrelated to the health sector as doctors in government service.

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