KENYA – Kenya has entered into a strategic partnership with Italian firm San Raffaele Research Hospital to commence construction of a mental health center of excellence to address the growing burden of mental illness in the country.

President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the agreement for setting up the facility on behalf of the Kenyan Government while officials from San Raffaele Research Hospital signed on behalf of the top private hospital in Italy.

Under the deal, the Italian firm will offer consultancy services, development and delivery of the mental health facility through a public-private partnership involving local and international players.

The agreement seeks to provide an enhanced local health sector that will guarantee quality services to all Kenyans and propel the country into a regional center of choice for different diagnostics and advanced treatment.

The new facility with a 600-bed capacity named the National Teaching and Referral Neuropsychiatric Centre will be built on an 80-hectare piece of land in Karen/Ngong to ensure the country is better positioned to deal with emerging mental health challenges.

The facility will offer mental health treatment, host a specialist university to train mental health workers and will be the focal point in organizing the new national mental care model in the country.

The center is expected to be a national education and training hub for mental health through providing specialized post-graduate and professional training for multiple professional specializations as well as disciplines in mental health including training psychiatrists and psychologists.

The project comes at the right time when the country has witnessed a growing burden in the number of mental disorders in recent years since statistics indicate that approximately 20-25 percent of outpatients seeking primary healthcare present symptoms of mental illness.

The National Teaching and Referral Neuropsychiatric Centre is expected to provide better care, more room and ease pressure on Mathari Hospital, the only public psychiatric hospital in Kenya, which will be upgraded for other medical purposes.

In addition, a taskforce on mental health which was inaugurated in December 2019 recommended a raft of measures including declaring mental health a national emergency.

The taskforce has also suggested the establishment of a mental health and happiness commission to advise, coordinate and continuously monitor the status of mental health in the country as well as report on the annual National Happiness Index.

Moreover, the Ministry of Health developed a mental health policy (2015-2030) and unveiled the quality rights initiative that seeks to improve access to quality mental health services and promote the rights of people with mental health conditions.

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