Regional News of Sunday, 3 August 2014
By the year 2018, no mentally challenged person will be seen roaming the country’s streets, the Director of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Dr Kwesi Osei, has assured.
Dr Osei, who gave the assurance in an interview with The Mirror, said the hospital in collaboration with the Mental Health Authority and some donors had initiated a special programme dubbed, “Operation Clear the Streets,” to rid the country’s streets of mentally challenged individuals.
The programme, he explained, would target 10 patients at a time.
“We will bring them into the hospital, treat them to restore their sanity and then reinstate them into their communities,” he explained.
Dr Osei said he was optimistic that, “Between three and four years we would not see a single patient on the streets”.
In addition to this exercise, he said, his outfit would also embark on a massive public education campaign to educate the public on issues pertaining to mental health.
According to the director, for those who are treated and returned to their homes, there would be follow-up visits and regular checkups by community nurses.
He said a few weeks ago, his outfit brought in the first 10, out of which two of them run away and one had been treated and sent home.
The remaining seven are well and are waiting to be sent home.
“With this success, we can extend the programme further to other regions. Where there are no psychiatric hospitals in a region, we would rent houses for that purpose and go ahead to clear the streets” he said.
The director described the influx of mentally challenged people onto the streets of Accra, in particular, as quite alarming.
He said the patients on the streets pose a threat to themselves and other members of the society.
He pointed out that it is dehumanising to see some of them walking around naked; eating food from bins and refuse dumps and also exposing themselves to harsh weather conditions.
Their presence on the streets, he stated, also negatively affects tourism and foreign investments.
The outreach leader of the “Operation Clear the Streets” programme, Mr. Noah Atakora Baku, told The Mirror that before the crew go out to pick patients from the streets, it prepares drugs that are used to sedate them at the pick-up point so as to make it easy to convey them to the hospital.
On how the mentally challenged persons are identified, he said they are spotted by the condition in which they are found.
He said currently the operation is focused on the central part of Accra because the existing facilities are not adequate to accommodate many patients.
In an interaction with some of the patients, who were picked from the streets, they told The Mirror that they had been treated and were ready to go home.
They expressed their profound gratitude to the management of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital and the crew in charge of the programme.
The Mirror also learnt that most of the mentally challenged persons on the streets were people who had previously run away from psychiatric hospitals.
Others were from prayer camps and traditional healing sanctuaries, where it was alleged that they were maltreated
Some of them were patients, who had recovered from their illnesses and had been sent home but due to inadequate care and attention from their relatives, they found themselves back on the streets.