The Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority, Professor Akwasi Osei, has attributed the lack of funds to the presence of nearly 16,000 mentally challenged patients in the streets instead of being confined to the psychiatric hospitals for treatment.
He, therefore, appealed to the government to provide funding for the removal of these patients roaming the streets to prevent further incidents of unprovoked attacks and assaults by mental patients on innocent people.
Prof. Osei was speaking against the backdrop of an attack at the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange in Accra where a mentally challenged woman stoned to death a middle-aged man who was a pillion rider on a motorcycle on Monday.
He said some seven years ago, there was some funding made available from which mental patients were taken off the streets gradually back to the psychiatric hospitals, treated free of charge and reintegrated into the communities with their relations but “ever since the funding ran out this is the situation we have found ourselves.”
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Ghanaian Times yesterday, Prof Osei said a number of proposals were made to the Ministry of Health where government would have found a solution to the problem of mental patients posing safety and security to the rest of the population but to no avail.
Prof Osei who is also the Chief Psychiatrist therefore, reiterated his advocacy for the government to establish a Mental Health Fund (MHF) through the introduction of at least GH¢ 0.50 levy charged on the monthly salary of all workers of the formal sector meaning the 700, 000 public sector workers which would result in GH¢350,000 per month and a whooping sum of GH¢ 4.2 million per year which would substantially be enough to cater for mental health treatment for the country.
Alternatively, the Chief Psychiatrist also recommended the introduction of “Sin Tax” of 0.5 per cent on all alcohol and tobacco products imported into the country into the Mental Health Fund.
“A percentage of the already existing national Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the Talk Tax levies could also be channelled into the MHF which would help solve the issues of mental health in the country.
“All these recommendations can only become a reality if the government exercises the will power to do so,” Prof. Osei stated.
He said it was unfortunate that the NHIS which was supposd to have covered mental patients’ treatment was not the case making it impossible for relatives that cannot afford the ‘Cash and Carry’ (paying for medical with cash) for the mentally challenged loved ones to take them to the hospitals for treatment.
“In this case, these people are left to stay home without treatment and worsen their plight to the extent that they end up in the streets posing danger to society while others especially females are exposed to sexual abuse.
“As at now a family has to part with a minimum of GH¢ 2,000.00 at the psychiatric hospital before their mentally ill relativess could be treated, which should not be the case,” Dr Osei said.
He appealed to the various assemblies to assist in getting mental patients off the streets into the various health centres.
BY NORMAN COOPER