LAHORE - With the government providing just peanuts in the shape of annual grant of Rs3.2 million, Fountain House is relying heavily on donations to run three state-of-the-art rehabilitation centres for terminally ill people in Lahore, Farooqabad (Sheikhupura) and Sargodha.

The institution that has so far rehabilitated more than 50,000 psychiatric patients since its inception in 1971 is annually spending Rs250 million for providing wide range of facilities to its members (patients). It is generating Rs40-50 million through pharmacy and partially paying patients and the rest of the expenses are met through donations from philanthropists.

In contrast, number of health facilities are getting huge amount as grant from the government for treating deserving patients. Interestingly, most of these memorial hospitals are charging heavy amounts from indoor and outdoor patients.

Fountain House was set up to relieve the loneliness and stigma that affect so many people living with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. Serious mental illness disrupts lives – people lose their jobs, drop out of school, alienate their families and friends, and end up alone.

Fountain House is providing indoor facilities to 400 members including 100 women in Lahore and 100 each in Sargodha and Farooqabad. At all these centres, more than 36,000 patients are annually provided consultation at outpatients departments, functioning six days in a week in Lahore and two days in a week in Sargodha and Farooqabad.

As many as 1799 registered OPD patients are being provided free medicines.

“In indoors, every free patient is costing more than Rs40,000 per month to the institution. More than 200 members (patients) in Lahore are being provided free medicines, meals, clothes and other facilities free of cost. The maximum share being provided by a paying patient is just Rs15,000 per month. All the facilities at OPD and education of special children at two schools, one at Fountain House and the other in Sanda are absolutely free,” said Medical Superintendent Dr Syed Imran Murtaza.

He added donors were kind enough to meet the expenses of managing rehabilitation of such a huge number of patients.

“Compassion Homes and Female Block of Fountain House in Farooqabad is under construction. Grey structure has been completed. Support of philanthropists is needed for completion of this state of the art facility for female patients. Hopefully, it will be functional during the coming year,” he said.

He counted various initiatives that have helped improving life of people needing attention of the society.

“More than 750 registered transgender people are spending at least one day at Fountain House in different groups. They are provided behavior therapy, screening for different diseases, necessary medicines, meals, clothes, monthly stipend of Rs1250 and gifts on festivals. Annual spending on this unique initiative is Rs22.5 million,” he said.

“Two drug addiction rehabilitation centres, each having 25-bed capacity, is an initiative to help the addicts returning to normal life. This centre is part of Fountain House Lahore. Addicts are being provided medication and counselling,” he said.

Dr Imran Murtaza said that the institution provides atmosphere of a home to its members.

“It is not just a place for counseling and treatment for disorders. It provides atmosphere for learning and acquiring skill in the field of one’s interest. Members are encouraged to take part in painting, calligraphy, stitching and such other things. On recovery, we help members in getting a suitable job or provide opportunity to serve at any centre at Fountain House. Our recovered members are serving at library and other centres,” he said. 

He denied any possibility of admission of a person not carrying any mental disorder.

“We follow a strict admission policy. Penal of experts comprising psychiatrist and psychologist assess condition of a patient at OPD. One who can take medicine at home is not allowed admission. Persons having extreme conditions like undressing himself or eating garbage is admitted indoors. Detailed assessment is carried out indoors to identify disorder. Experts closely monitor treatment of all admitted patients,” he said.

Fountain House has adopted the ideology of a club-house from Fountain House, New York. Through a process of constant experimentation and evaluation, it has evolved a program and an ideological framework in line with the local needs.

Members are selected on the basis of a prescribed criterion. The reason is that being a residential facility, it could not throw its doors wide open. The criteria limits membership mainly to Schizophrenics excluding mentally retarded and physically disabled.

Access to services is their right as resident members, day members, night participants or casual visitors.

Prof Rashid Chaudhry (Late) formed Lahore Mental Health Association in 1962 to mobilize efforts & resources for the uplift and promotion of mental health. In 1965, he worked out a plan for the establishment of a rehabilitation center for the mentally ill in Lahore. A formal proposal entitled “Establishment of a Half-Way House and Day-Night Rehabilitation Unit for persons with Mental Illness” was submitted to the government. In 1968, the proposal was sent to the Social and Rehabilitation Services, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, USA for technical and financial assistance. In 1971, John H Beard, Executive Director, Fountain House, New York visited the Rehabilitation Unit of LMHA. Collaboration between the two houses led to the adoption of the name of Fountain House.