By Sushil Batra
New Delhi [India], July 9 (ANI): Homeless or destitute persons with mental illness or suspected mental illness deserve all health care services including a test for COVID-19, owing to the fact that such persons are usually more exposed to the risks of the pandemic in comparison to the persons having a privilege of house shed or a roof over their head, said Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) in a reply in Delhi High Court.
The Delhi High Court was hearing a plea seeking to issue guidelines with respect to COVID-19 testing facility for mentally ill homeless persons. IHBAS stated that it has received double or multiple times the number of patients (particularly, the homeless or destitute persons with mental illness or suspected mental illness) than any other medical institute or hospital.
IHBAS submitted that one of the primary problems being faced in the testing of the homeless and destitute persons with mental illness or suspected mental illness is the unavailability or absence of photo identity card and a valid mobile number, both of which are mandated as mandatory conditions by the national guidelines of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued by Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
It also added that the persons suffering from severe mental illness, maintenance of the norms of hygiene and social distancing can be challenging, as a result of which many persons with mental illnesses along with physical co-morbidities were not being admitted.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan on Thursday showed displeasure with ICMR for addressing the hardship and difficulties which homeless mentally ill persons are facing in COVID-19 testing facility.
Gaurav Kumar Bansal, advocate and petitioner in person during the arguments submitted that affidavit of ICMR clearly shows that they are clueless as far as the issue concerned with homeless mentally ill persons are concerned.
After hearing the detailed arguments made by parties, the court directed ICMR to file an additional affidavit dealing with the issue at hand and as such adjourned the case for July 24.
The PIL submitted that the petitioner had approached the Delhi government while dealing with the issues relating to the mental health of homeless persons with mental illness. It also alleged that wilful, deliberate, and intentional ignorance of Chief Secretary of Delhi on the matter was not only contemptuous but also highlight the fact that the Government of NCT of Delhi has not seriously taken the issue related to the lack of guidelines with respect to COVID-19 testing of mentally ill homeless persons.
"Homeless mentally ill persons being a neglected group within a vulnerable section of our society not only need special care and attention but also require regular support from the government as well as society," the plea said.
"However, a crisis like the present COVID-19 pandemic puts additional responsibility on the government shoulders to formulate and implement such public health programmes for homeless mentality ill persons which are not only able to provide mental health treatment but can also effectively protect them from the said deadly virus," it added.
The plea said that as per Section 3 (3) of the Mental Healthcare Act-2017, it is the duty of the Delhi government to take all necessary measures for providing a range of services required by persons with mental illness. (ANI)