Friday, 25 June 2004  
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Indian experts collaborate on future development of Sahanaya activities

A workshop to develop a five-year plan and an implementation strategy of the proposed future development program organised by the National Council for Mental Health will be held at the Agrarian Research Training Institute (ARTI) on June 25 and 26.

This workshop plans to focus attention on all aspects related to the development program which aims at expanding the services provided at Sahanaya and widening the coverage of mental health services, states Dr. Nalaka Mendis, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Colombo and President, National Council for Mental Health.

In order to undertake the development program, Sahanaya needs to develop its capacity, competence, resources, institutional culture and the approaches to care a great deal. It is in this respect, Sahanaya is planning to get assistance from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience in Bangalore.

A memorandum of understanding is due to be signed between these two institutions at the workshop. The collaboration envisages the initiation of capacity building activities at Sahanaya with the help of the National Institute in Bangalore.

The activities at Sahanaya, the community mental health center at Borella, includes educational, training, clinical and rehabilitation programs.

These programs do not meet many needs of mentally ill people. Most services are confined to Colombo and as a result, mental health services remain stagnant in areas outside major cities.

Mental health needs of mentally ill are expanding and the existing services do not meet the increasing demand.

The proposed Sahanaya Development Program envisages the introduction of residential facilities for rehabilitation and training at Gorakana and outreach activities delivered through centers which will be established in Trincomalee, Vavuniya and Matara.

The residential center at Gorakana is under construction and the first phase will cost around Rs. 40 million.

Mental health professionals attached to Sahanaya along with the volunteers, care givers and visiting professionals carry out the program.

Target groups include those with disabilities associated with long-term mentalillness, psychosocial distress, violence and trauma and mental illness.

Sahanaya spends around Rs. 300,000 monthly and less than 15 per cent is recovered through payment by service users.

The existing public mental health services and the non-governmental organisations continue to provide services to meet the needs of acutely ill people and certain special groups such as alcoholic, drug addicts, suicidal and distressed through counselling and the other interventions.

The workshop is expected to focus attention of identification of mental health needs and services, organisational framework, mobilisation and development of resources, implementation and monitoring of programs.

Five leading professionals from India will participate in the workshop. They are: Dr. D. Nagarajah, Director/Vice Chancellor, Prof. R. Chandrashekar, Head, Department of Psychiatry and Prof. Mohan Isaac, a leading academic from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience in Bangalore.

Dr. R. Thara, Director, Schizophrenia Research Foundation of Chennai and Director, Richmond Fellowship Society of India will participate at the workshop.

Their participation has been possible due to the financial assistance by the Indo-Sri Lanka Foundation.

More than 25 experts working in the field including psychiatrists from Sri Lanka will participate at the workshop.

The workshop will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse at the ARTI, Colombo at 9.00 a.m. today. Ministers of Health and Social Services are expected to attend.

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