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DNA, India
26 November 2010
By Nozia Sayyed
Pune, India

The district mental health programme (DMHP), an ambitious project of the Union government, is in a shambles in the state. Barring six districts, the project is yet to take off in the other 29 districts of the state, including Pune.

Apparently, paucity of funds and lack of psychiatrists are proving stumbling blocks to start the scheme.

The state government is not taking much interest in overcoming the shortcomings to run the project, which would have benefitted mentally ill patients.

DMHP, part of the National Mental Health Programme, was launched in 1986–87 for the betterment of the mental health services for those staying in rural parts and outskirts of cities. Under this programme, there should be one psychiatrist, one counsellor and a 10–bed ward in each district hospital.

The joint director state health services and incharge of DMHP in the state, Dr Archana Patil, admitted that the project is yet to kick off in a majority of the state. "There are 56 posts of psychiatrists currently lying vacant. We need trained psychiatrists and counsellors with adequate funds to run this programme. We are trying to fill up posts of psychiatrists, but we are not getting the right candidates," she said.

The situation would only get more grim after two years, when many senior psychiatrists are scheduled to retire.

Pune civil surgeon, Dr M Nagre, lamented that for the last three years he has trying to set up a full–fledged DMHP at the Aundh Civil Hospital but there has been no response from the state government.

"At present, a psychiatrist from the Yerawada–based Regional Mental Hospital visits once a fortnight to examine patients. We refer serious cases to the Regional Mental Hospital," he said.

The superintendent of the Regional Mental Hospital, Dr Manohar Yadav, was also critical of the state government in running the programme successfully.

"We send psychiatrists from our hospital at regular intervals to Aundh Civil Hospital," he said.

The member of the state mental health reform society, Dr Anand Nadkarni, said the state government should be more serious about the DMHP. "Mental health is a major issue and those suffering from mental ailments should be treated properly," he added.

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