Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in partnership with Ampath has constructed a mental health facility in the hospital to cater for people with mental illness.
The Sh25 million Nawiri Recovery and Skills Centre with a capacity to accommodate 16 clients is under the MTRH Directorate of Mental Health and Rehabilitative Services and is in strategic position to benefit patients from across the country and its neighbours like Uganda, South Sudan and others.
The facility will play a great role in addressing the rising cases of mental illness in the entire North Rift region as it is the only public facility providing medical care to patients suffering from mental illness as a result of depression, alcohol and substance abuse.
In an interview with KNA during the official unveiling of the MTRH Nawiri Recovery and Skills Centre, MTRH CEO Dr. Wilson Aruasa he pointed out that the mental facility is a transitional home which apart from treatment, also trains the patients to recover their skills like knitting, gardening among others, in order to remain productive when they go back home after treatment.
“This is a transitional home managed by a multidisciplinary team from Nawiri and MTRH who successfully manage several patients every day to help them recover their skills. We have psychologists, social workers, nurses, doctors and health administrators,” said Aruasa.
“To ensure sustainability, we make sure every patient here at the family level, in line with the universal health coverage agenda of the government, has NHIF cover. Should they not have it, then we have set aside some money from the grant to enrol them for the health insurance,” he added.
He noted that the centre’s service charges are under the MTRH user fees which are heavily discounted by the MTRH board and within the recommended rates by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council.
“We don’t charge like in the private facilities, we charge reasonable fees within the framework of government services and for those who are unable to pay, we have a credit mechanism where we allow the patients to enjoy the services without paying,” said Aruasa.
The CEO reiterated the need for a paradigm shift in public outlook on mental health by embracing it as a key component of a human being that if not well addressed may negatively impact the life of persons living with mental illness.
He called for the establishment of similar mental health facilities across all the regions in the country.
“Being a transitional home and one of its kind and being MTRH, the role is to inform public policy on public health in the country. We would like to see a similar centre in Nakuru, central rift region, one in Nairobi, Coastal region and one in North-Eastern because this one only lies in the western half of Kenya covering Nyanza, Rift Valley and Western,” he explained.
Aruasa said that people with mental illness must always be taken care of including their spiritual wellbeing, adding that the MTRH has a Pastoral Services Department that works closely with the centre to provide spiritual support to the patients.
President of the Astellas Global Health Foundation and Vice President Sustainability at Astellas, Shingo Iino, PhD, said that his organization finds it especially meaningful to support Ampath’s efforts to improve access to mental health services and health outcomes through Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.
“Since it was one of the first financial grants awarded by the Astellas Global Health Foundation when it was established in 2018, we are grateful that our first grant and second grant have improved the lives of Kenyans who suffer from mental health illness as the MTRH Nawiri Recovery & Skills Centre is a prime example of how to enhance people’s lives in a lasting way,” said Iino.
He was accompanied by Angelique Lewis, Vice President of Astellas Global Health Foundation and Senior Director, Access to Health, Sustainability at Astellas, and Dr. Mathew Turissini from Indiana University School of Medicine, AMPATH, during a weeklong tour to assess mental health initiatives in the region and to recognize the support that the two Foundation grants totaling more than US$2.4 million (Sh300 million) have provided to people with mental health challenges in Western Kenya.
Dr. Edith Kwobah, a Psychiatrist and Head of Mental Health Department at MTRH said that the centre is the first and only transitional home for mentally ill patients in the country.
“We are extremely grateful for the continued support from the Astellas Global Health Foundation as we seek to reduce stigma and improve mental health care access in Kenya that enables people to receive critical medical support and live as valued and respected members of their communities,” said Kwobah.
“We are privileged to lead the country in showing them that psychosocial rehabilitation is possible and trying to improve the lives of people with severe mental illness so that they can integrate better in the community,” she said.
The psychiatrist indicated that research shows a high burden of mental illness in Kenya is caused by depression, anxiety disorder, drug and substance use, adding that the program is an exciting next step to help develop, implement, and sustain a mental health care program in the public health system in Kenya that improves access to mental health services for anyone in need.
She further noted that access to mental health services is a concern in Kenya, and through the grant the largest referral facility in the region, MTRH can make a powerful difference in promoting access to sustainable mental health care.
MTRH Nawiri Recovery and Skills Centre, Counselling Psychologist, Lily Okeyo said that they provide holistic care for people with severe mental illness through therapeutic care, illness management, recovery training and life skills courses to help them adjust back to society.
“I oversee the illness management and recovery of the patients, I help them to first understand their illness, define what recovery is to them, and understand the role of medication in managing their symptoms,” said Okeyo.
She noted that they also involve family members in therapy as well as visiting their homes to sensitize community members on mental illness to enable them understand that it is a condition like any other adding there is always opportunity for treatment and recovery.
Onesmus Kiplagat, one of the survivors to recover from the centre since its inception in 2018 said the centre has done commendable work in enabling him recover from the illness.
He was the second client after falling mentally ill as a result of depression due to pressure from the family. He called on society not to discriminate against people with mental illness but to accommodate and support them like other ordinary persons in the society through taking them to the nearest mental health facility for medical attention.
“When a person is mentally ill, he needs to be handled and treated politely because they tend to disagree with everyone who does things the way he does not want and as a result he turns aggressive to fight the person or even destroy property,” he said.
By Ekuwam Sylvester and Judy Too