The Head of Mental Health Authority, Dr Akwasi Osei, has emphasized the need to bridge the existing gap in mental health treatment by extending services to all parts of the country.
He noted in an interview with the B&FT, that mental health services in the country have been limited to only a section of the public to the neglect of others who equally need the services, adding that until the matter is addressed, more mentally challenged persons will occupy the streets.
According to Dr. Osei, the country’s mental health service delivery has over 90 percent treatment gap, which means that for every hundred people who required mental health care, less than ten are getting the adequate care “because all the services are limited to only the three major psychiatric hospitals located in Accra, Ankaful, and Pantang.”
“There are many people who will go to prayer camps and be put in chains and whipped in the name of exorcising the evil spirit from them because they are not getting proper health care, and others will also be on the streets.”
“So, when people say that they are seeing more mental patients on the streets, it is part of the problem; they are not getting the care,” he said.
He further added that: “The new approach towards mental healthcare is to decentralise and to be community-oriented, as we want to remove the emphasis from the three areas and spread access throughout the country.
“We need to spread nationwide so that if somebody is at Zabzugu Tatale, he can still get the proper care he requires as if he were in Accra,” he explained.
By decentralizing, Dr Osei also advocates that a mental health wing is instituted in every regional hospital, and further be integrated into general healthcare.
He indicated that the only bottleneck that is hindering the smooth delivery of mental healthcare in the country remains the absence of the Legislative Instrument (LI) which will ensure the operationalization of the Mental Health Act of 2012 (Act 846).
The passage, he said, will allow for the implementation of the details of the Act, which among other things, will specify a mental health levy that will go into a fund to facilitate the existence of all other resources needed for quality delivery of mental health services.
“We are beginning to lay down the structures that will enable the take-off of all that, but what is hindering us is the passage of the enabling legislative instrument.
We hope that by the first quarter or latest the first half of next year, we should pass it and begin to get the money. Putting all that together, come the next 5 years, things would be different and improved,” he added.