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Monday, October 22, 2007

A Worthy Cause

For the past several years I've been involved with a non-profit mental health facility in Karachi, Pakistan called Karwan-e-Hayat ("Caravan of Hope"). By "involved with", I mean I give them money. They need it. Pakistan's facilities for the treatment of mental illness are woefully underfunded and unlikely to get a great deal better anytime soon.

For ten years I worked in mental health in Massachusetts and Arizona, doing everything from overnight staffing at a house for juvenile offenders coming out of the criminal justice system, to working with 3- to 5-year-olds with autism, to acting as a case manager for 40+ chronic mentally ill clients. I was also the assistant director of an apartment complex in Tucson that provided housing to 22 indigent mentally ill people; I ran a group home, and worked in a couple others. So I have some exerience with docs and case management and so forth. My point here is that Karwan-e-Hayat, which I toured a couple of years ago, is as good a facility as anything I've seen in the US. The buildings are spacious and clean--there's one for men, one for women, with both inpatient and outpatient facilities in each. There's plenty of staff around who seem to know what they're doing, and the doctor in charge of the whole thing is on the ball and up-to-date with current treatments. The patients looked active and engaged, and Nurse Ratchet was nowhere to be seen.

This is impressive given the obstacles that have been overcome to establish the place, the main one being, of course, funding. Most of the patients are poor, in part because the poor have so little access to treatment anywhere else. (Patients who can afford to see a private doc will do so.) As a result, something like 90% of the patients at Karwan-e-Hayat receive all treatment for free.

Much of Pakistan's annual budget goes to "defense" (you know what that means) and "development"--nice things like roads and bridges and rural electrification and hey, maybe even a school or two. This is fine. But when the money's used up there's nothing left over for, say, the several million people who have significant mental illness and little chance of getting information, much less treatment, for it. So it falls upon the private sector to pick up the slack.

I ask you all to click on this link and check out Karwan-e-Hayat's web site:

And if you can donate something, it's much appreciated, so thanks. It's tax deductible, so go wild.

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