Fatimah calls for more collaboration to tackle mental illness among homeless

Fatimah (front, standing centre) poses for a group photo with other guests and participants during the ‘Human Trafficking as Global Issues’ sharing session programme at a hotel in Kuching today (Aug 23, 2022).

By Yee Mei

KUCHING, Aug 23: One of the main issues faced when tackling homelessness is assisting homeless persons with mental health issues which needs the collaborative efforts of the relevant ministries, departments, and agencies, says Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development Minister Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah.

During the ‘Human Trafficking as Global Issues’ sharing session programme at a hotel here today, Fatimah said that it is a concern when these individuals stop taking medication prescribed to them by their doctors.

“During operations, when there are homeless persons with mental health issues, we send them to clinics to get treated, and they return to the streets when they are discharged.

“The problem is that once they are back on the streets, they don’t take medicine prescribed by the doctor.

“This is important because the doctor says they will be okay as long as they take their medicine,” she said in her opening remarks.

Fatimah, who is the Dalat assemblywoman, said this is an issue which needs to be tackled by her ministry and the Health Ministry, along with the relevant agencies and departments.

“We are learning along the way as each homeless person is an individual with different problems and background. Therefore, we need to tackle them individually and not put a blanket rule for everybody,” she said.

In her speech, she revealed that there are 158 homeless individuals in Sarawak as of 2021.

“We have set up a temporary transit centre (TTG) for homeless persons in Sibu where these individuals can drop by and be provided with a place to sleep, food, and clothes.

“They will also be provided with counselling, medical examination, and be taught skills to generate income,” she said, adding that there are plans to set up a TTG in Kuching, Miri, and Bintulu.

During health screenings, she said, the relevant authorities will treat those with drug, substance, and mental health issues.

As for those aged 60 years and above, if they don’t have any relatives who can take them in, they would be placed at Rumah Seri Kenangan.

“This is a collaborative effort with various agencies and departments, and to solve these issues, we need to collaborate and work with each other,” she said.

The programme was also attended by Minal Patel Davis, who is the director of the Mayor’s Office of Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence in Houston, Texas, in the United States of America (USA). — DayakDaily