Lagos State Government is proposing a law that would give custody of persons suffering from mental disorder to the Nigeria Police.
This was disclosed by the Chief Whip of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Rotimi Abiru during a Public Hearing at the Lateef Jakande Auditorium, Alausa Ikeja.
The proposed law was contained in section 31 of a Bill titled, “A Law to establish the Lagos State Mental Health Service and provide for the protection and care of Persons suffering from Mental Disorder in Lagos State and for other connected matters.
Hon. Abiru who was giving the overview of the Bill, stated there was need to repeal the existing law which was enacted by the Colonial masters referred to as the Lunacy Law, Cap. L93.
According to the Bill, “Any police officer above the rank of an inspector or officer in charge of a Police Station may take or cause to be taken into his custody, any person-
“Whom he believes to be suffering from mental disorder and who is found within his jurisdiction,
“Who he believes to be suffering from mental disorder and is not under proper care and control, or is being cruelly treated or neglected by any relative or other person having charge of him.”
The bill will guarantee the protection of persons suffering mental disorder in the state.
In addition, the law provides that female patients in a mental facility shall have separate sleeping accommodation from male patients and that they shall not be discriminated against with respect to treatment, community care, voluntary and involuntary treatment.
It will ensure that every person with mental disorder shall have access to mental health care institutions in the state and ensure that no person shall be received or detained for treatment in a mental health facility unless he is received and detained under the provisions of the law.
Under the proposed law, there would a Governing Board to be known as the Lagos State Mental Service Board. It shall comprise the Director of Mental Health Service and four other members appointed from the public or private sectors of the State, one of whom shall be appointed as Chairman of the Board.
A person in need of treatment for mental disorder may receive treatment at a general health care facility and shall be referee to a mental health facility where necessary.
However, a person in need of treatment for mental disorder may visit directly, with or without referral, a mental health facility for treatment.
“Where a psychiatrist or head of medical facility is of the opinion that the nature of the mental disorder of a person justifies admission and that there are adequate facilities for the treatment of the patient, the psychiatrist or head of the medical facility may admit that person as a voluntary patient.
“A person admitted to a mental hospital as a voluntary patient shall be discharged in accordance with normal rules of discharge in a health facility.
“A person who is either a nearest relative of a patient or a certified health worker, may make application to the head of a mental hospital for the involuntary admission and treatment of a person believed to be suffering from severe mental disorder, where the person named is at personal risk or a risk to other people or there is a substantial risk that the mental disorder will deteriorate.
“A patient, whether voluntary or involuntary, shall have treatment plan, which shall be regularly reviewed and revised as necessary.
“A psychiatrist or head of mental health facility may recommended the placement of a person under a temporary treatment for a prolonged treatment in a psychiatric hospital if the psychiatrist or head of a mental health facility is of the opinion that the severity of the condition warrants it,” the Bill stated.
However, stakeholders at the forum canvassed for adequate funding by the state government to actualize the hope of protection and care of mentally challenged individuals.
A consultant mental physician, Adesoji Banji who commended the state government for coming up with the Bill, urged the Committee to influence the state government to spend money on mental health.
Banji advised that the state government should sponsor people with schizophrenic mental health challenge, which he said is expensive, adding that health insurance providers do not cover mental health.
He also observed that the Bill does not notice the influence of the media, especially social media on mental health.
“A lot of people, including comedians stigmatize people with mental health. They just call people madman anyhow. They always abuse people on Yaba Left as against people on Yaba Right.
“The media should help us disabuse the minds of people about this. Nollywood is fond of stigmatizing people with mental health. They should stop saying that every mental illness is spiritual,” he said
A Consultant Psychiatrist in the United Kingdom, Olufemi Oluwatayo corroborated the issue of funding mental health treatment.
Oluwatayo wondered who would pay for the treatment of the people with mental health challenge, who the law permits the police to arrest.
The consultant stated that the bill is long overdue in Nigeria, saying that it is well established in the UK, and that the country needs a law to protect the mentally vulnerable people.
He, however, noted that the Bill did not specify who it refers to as people with mental disorder.
According to him, “‘There are different levels of mental disorder. Homosexuality used to be a mental disorder, people who take drugs and others could be regarded as people with mental challenge.
“We have to spell it out, there are people with low IQ. Also, we have to specify who is the nearest relative of a mentally challenged person.
“If the police arrest people on the streets, who will pay for the treatment. We have to back the law with funding because someone has to pay,” he said.
Also speaking, another stakeholder, Mrs. Yemi Adamolekun said that there is nothing in the Bill on educating people on mental health or stereotypes.
Adamolekun said further that the state government should regulate seminar on some issues relating to mental health.
She suggested that there should be a commission to deal with mental health in the Ministry of Health.
A Commissioner in the state’s Health Service Commission, Mrs. Kemi Ogunyemi emphasised on the issue of training and traditional medicine and that there was no mention of people that patronize traditional doctors.
Ogunyemi pointed to the issue of domestic violence, saying that a woman could call the police and report that her husband has mental problem if he beats her, adding that mental disorder should be specified.
He also expressed concern about the person that would pay for the treatment of any mentally challenged person arrested by the police.
In her comment, a psychiatrist nurse, Princess Ukata suggested that there should be a nurse on the board proposed in the bill.
Earlier in his welcome address, Chairman of the House Committee on Health Services, Hon. Hakeem Shokunle stated that the public hearing was necessary to have the opinion of the people about the bill.
He stated that it was important to get the contributions of stakeholders about the bill, adding that the state government has the necessary resources to treat people with mental health picked on the streets by the police.
Also, the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa stated that the public hearing would held deepen the legislation and aid public analysis of the bill.
Obasa, who was represented by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, added that the Assembly always looked forward to the contributions of the people through public hearings.
He added that anyone picked on the streets by the police would be treated free of charge by the state government.
For a better society.