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Bulgaria Makes Moves To Improve Mental Health Treatment
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 20, 2004

SOFIA, BULGARIA--International attention is being directed to the poor treatment people with mental disabilities endure in Bulgaria's 52 psychiatric institutions, now that the country is trying to join the European Union.

"The Islands of the Forgotten", a report published recently by the non-governmental organization Helsinki Committee, revealed that the country's institutions violate the rights of those inside by failing to provide enough food, heat and medical care; by locking or chaining up some patients for extended periods of time; and by failing to provide treatment that would allow them to return to the community.

According to the Agence France Presse, the report explained that 11 percent of those housed in the institutions died last year. In one institution alone, 64 of its 100 patients died in 2003. The report also noted that one woman was kept in solitary confinement for 28 years.

Money that has been earmarked for improvements has disappeared, evidently because of corrupt individuals.

Bulgarian officials admitted that there are problems, and said they are taking emergency measures to correct them.

One welfare official said the government plans to place some residents into situations that resemble family homes, and to open outpatient treatment centers for those whose families are ready to take them back home.

"E.U. Hopeful Bulgaria Under Fire For Abuse At Mental Health Institutions" (Agence France Presse via Turkish Press)

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