The establishment of Mehac can be traced to its roots in the palliative care movement in north Kerala; these initiatives in palliative care, involving people, indicate the efficacy of the community model. Mehac’s Founder and Clinical Director, Dr Chitra Venkateswaran, has actively contributed to this community-based movement. Although initially, people with cancer and other terminal illnesses were the prime beneficiaries, the movement subsequently grew to encompass people with many chronic mental diseases. To incorporate the principles of palliative care for mental health was regarded as both a challenge and an exciting opportunity. Mehac Foundation has adapted the principles of this public health initiative specific to mental health care. This movement has actually enabled the community to own health care programmes, take responsibilities in policies and take an active role in the expansion of the programme.
The development and existence of the mental health care system as an organisational and clinical entity, not integrated with the general health care apparatus, leave most institutions bereft of community orientation or participation. A large section of the poor remain deprived of care, both long-term care and continuous availability of medicines. The Mehac model involves empowering local communities to impart free mental health care services to the poor under the guidance and supervision of trained medical professionals. Mehac’s focus is on initiating, facilitating and augmenting the mental health component of existing general and primary health care services, providing free and quality care through a network comprising of a variety of local institutions and individuals to function as mental health care coordinators.