Maharashtra government set to introduce Mental Healthcare Act soon

Maharashtra government set to introduce Mental Healthcare Act soon

Mumbai, August 21, 2017


The Maharashtra government is set to implement the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 replacing the Mental Health Act, 1987 in the state soon to provide persons with mental illness with better treatment and improve their access to health services.


A government resolution on the implementation of the Act will soon be issued. The draft text, prepared by Mental Health Cell in this regard, has been sent to Directorate of Health Services (DHS) for consideration which will subsequently be sent to the government for approval. The draft contains provisions of fund allocation, strengthening infrastructure facility at mental hospitals and district hospitals, rehabilitation of patients and increasing number of psychiatrists and qualified staff to facilitate implementation of the Act, said sources in DHS.


The state government has four mental hospitals located in Thane, Pune, Nagpur and Ratnagiri. Mental health cell recently held a meeting with superintendents of all the four hospitals to sensitize them about the new Act.  The Mental Healthcare Act passed by Parliament was published on April 7, 2017 in the Official Gazette of India. The state governments are required to issue GR to pave the way for its implementation.


While the earlier laws on mental health were regulation-centric, the new Act is patient-centric. The Act provides persons with mental illness a right to access quality treatment irrespective of their income, place of living etc— forcing either state governments or, in the case of union territories, the central government to provide mental healthcare in every district by January 7, 2018. They also have the right to equality of treatment and protection from inhuman and degrading treatment.


As per the Act, a person with mental illness shall have the right to make an advance directive that states how he/she wants to be treated for the illness and who his/her nominated representative shall be. The advance directive should be certified by a medical practitioner or registered with the Mental Health Board. If a mental health professional/ relative/care-giver does not wish to follow the directive while treating the person, he can make an application to the Mental Health Board to review/alter/cancel the advance directive.


The law presumes severe stress to be at work in the case of any person’s attempt to commit suicide. This means that suicide, earlier a criminal act under the Indian Penal Code, is now seen as symptom of medical illness that needs to be treated.


The Act empowers the government to set up Central Mental Health Authority at national-level and State Mental Health Authority in every state. Every mental health institute and mental health practitioners including clinical psychologists, mental health nurses and psychiatric social workers will have to be registered with this Authority.


These bodies will (a) register, supervise and maintain a register of all mental health establishments,(b) develop quality and service provision norms for such establishments, (c) maintain a register of mental health professionals, (d) train law enforcement officials and mental health professionals on the provisions of the Act, (e) receive complaints about deficiencies in provision of services, and (f) advise the government on matters relating to mental health.


The Act seeks to ensure health-care, treatment and rehabilitation of mentally ill people without intruding their privacy or rights. It has a provision to protect and restore the property right of the mentally ill people.


With 90 per cent of approximately 60 million in the country suffering from mental illness presently not getting any treatment, these initiatives are crucial and welcome.


“New Mental Health Care Act is noble in intention, attempting to follow the international norms of providing comprehensive care to the persons with mental illness with dignity and respect. But the main challenge would be how these ideas would be practically implemented with constraints of finance and other resources”, says Dr PM Bhujang president of Association of Hospitals.