Iswar Sankalpa, through its work in the community, has identified community resources and mobilized state agencies’ support in order to create an integrated network of service delivery for the client. We believe that the stronger the partnerships that support us, the more sustainable and impactful our work will be. Hence, IS has worked on building a network of support through advocacy, coordination with different agencies and mental health awareness in the community.
The process of how IS works with each of these partners is elucidated below –
1. The Media : Apart from giving the organisation’s successful efforts publicity and support, sensitive reporting by the media has been instrumental in raising awareness and in helping families locate their lost ones.
2. Other NGOs and CBOs: There are numerous CBOs, NGOs and other organisations in the city of Kolkata working for the under-privileged and marginalized sections of the city. Relatively, very few work for the homeless population – those that do, such as the Missionaries of Charity, mostly provide food and clothing and shelter, but provisions for medical treatment for the homeless persons with psychosocial disabilities seemed to have slipped through the cracks – perhaps because of the nature of the disability and the population.
Iswar Sankalpa has attempted to create an informal network of care by bringing together these limited resources for the care of the homeless and poor persons with psychosocial disabilities and/or mental health conditions in the city. A number of organisations who work with persons with mental health conditions, who require institution-based care, by providing treatment and care to them, are part of our referral system. Some organisations provide rehabilitation services, while others, including pharmacists and pharmaceutical companies provide free medicines, while others provide clothes.
Iswar Sankalpa has also tried to use this partnership with NGOs and CBOs as a platform to spread awareness about mental health and illness in the communities and areas they work in. This helps to sensitize more and more people about the rising need for holistic mental health services and the right to a life with dignity for those with mental health conditions.
3. The Community: The community has played an important role in various aspects of Iswar Sankalpa’s work. Often the clients under our care in the community or living in the shelter have been referred to our social workers by local community members. Our clinic-based Urban Mental Health Programme has seen several referrals by community members spreading information about mental health services being available at the ward health unit.
Iswar Sankalpa’s projects with the homeless population with psychosocial disabilities have seen a stupendous growth thanks to the increasing support of the local community. A lot of our clients have caregivers from amongst the community who are willing to check on the client every day, hand over his/her medicines timely and has willingly extended their support, overcoming their fears and inhibitions. Many of these caregivers are people of small means themselves, but they are willing to work quietly for a social cause, without any hope of recognition or remuneration. This often acts as an example for other members of the community who come together, slowly to form a network of community volunteers in that area, helping to spread Iswar Sankalpa’s message on mental health to other members of their community.
In Iswar Sankalpa’s home-based Urban Mental Health Programme, our interactions have made us meet some people who are often key representatives of the community – they maybe a local community doctor, or an elderly person, a school principal or someone who has a religious background, all of who exert some influence on the community. These key representatives’ support leads to more people in the community wanting to understand what mental health and illness imply, leading to increased awareness in the community, and increased footfalls in the ward health unit for people needing mental health services.
4. Health and Welfare Departments: The State Government is constitutionally responsible for providing health care services to all citizens and has a large array of resources, much larger than that of any individual organisation, albeit still inadequate. Given these resources, the State Government has still not succeeded in successful planning, implementation and convergence of services for the homeless and those with psychosocial disabilities, and/or mental health conditions.
Iswar Sankalpa has been engaged in intense advocacy with the State Government’s diverse departments to bring psychiatric care and allied services to the target population. This has led to a liaison with key government agencies
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation
The KMC has been part of Iswar Sankalpa’s activity since its first baseline study of homeless persons with psychosocial disabilities on the streets of Kolkata before the inception of the Outreach project. The erstwhile Mayor, Mr. Bikash Bhattacharjee has been a staunch supporter, and through his good offices, Iswar Sankalpa was gifted an ambulance by Dr. Arjun Sengupta, Member of Parliament. Since April 2010, the Corporation has provided a space to Iswar Sankalpa which is used as a shelter for homeless women with psychosocial disabilities in need of shelter.
Iswar Sankalpa has successfully partnered with the Corporation to launch the pilot project – Urban Mental Health Programme (April 2012-March 2015) in two wards (78 and 82) of Kolkata. Through this project, Iswar Sankalpa and the Corporation are integrating mental health services with general health services being offered at primary urban care centres in order to be able to reach out to the low-income and below poverty line families.
General and Psychiatric Hospitals
State hospitals such as M.R.Bangur Hospital, Nilratan Sarkar Medical College and Hospital, R.G Kar Medical College and Hospital, and S.S.K.M Hospital have admitted clients and helped in their recovery, although they lack the necessary resources and infrastructure to take care of clients who may be violent. Some of the clients have been rehabilitated in government homes while some have been admitted for treating their physical problems. Iswar Sankalpa has also provided referrals to general and psychiatric hospitals for clients needing specialised care for any physical problem or in need for institution-based care.
In most cases, Iswar Sankalpa’s advocacy and partnership has helped to curb refusals and to initiate cooperation from these hospitals. However, in some cases of refusals, and non-cooperation, Kolkata Police has extended their support to work out a resolution.
5. Kolkata Police: Kolkata Police has played a pivotal role in the services being offered by Iswar Sankalpa since its inception. As per the Mental Health Act of 1987, the Officer-in-charge is duty bound to take any wandering person with mental illness into protective custody and they must be produced before the magistrate within 24 hours. However, before the partnership with Iswar Sankalpa, the Police would, under the Vagrancy Act of 1943, periodically round of all homeless persons who would languish indefinitely in vagrant’s homes until they were classified as lepers, the insane or mentally deficient, suffering from communicable diseases or children. Persons declared by the Magistrate to be ‘insane or mentally deficient’ were then transferred to the Vagrants Home in Murshidabad, the only one in West Bengal earmarked for psychiatric cases, where they would languish practically unattended because of the dearth of state-employed psychiatrists. In a order dated 22nd February 2010, Sri Bani Brata Basu, Special Commissioner of Police II, with the permission of the Commissioner of Police, Sri Goutam Mohan Chakraborty, issued instructions to all Divisional Deputy Commissioners reminding them of their duties towards the homeless persons with psychosocial disabilities under the Mental Health Act, 1987 and advised them of the procedures and protocol to be followed towards such persons.
– The partnership process between Kolkata Police and Iswar Sankalpa is given below