This profile was prepared when Ratnaboli Ray was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999.
The New Idea
While Indian law permits the police to take the mentally ill into forced custody at any time, the state institutions where these patients are held generally do not provide rehabilitative care. Nor is there political will to integrate cured inmates back into their communities. As a result, thousands of recovered patients, Non Criminal Lunatics (NCLs), and the mentally unfit overcrowd custodial care institutions and maximize their space, personnel, resources, and services. Ratnaboli Ray has created an approach that co-opts the institutions as partners in change. She is opening the doors of state institutions to a broad array of professionals - counselors, human rights activists, psychiatrists, therapists, community workers, and others - whose expertise will dramatically modernize treatment. These professionals will train medical and care-giving staff to move patients with different levels of mental illness into appropriate paths of treatment and introduce modern rehabilitation techniques, community psychiatry, and mental health practices. Ratnaboli and her allies will also be demonstrating how to integrate recovered patients into their original communities, by building awareness and acceptance for them and by establishing healing zones within those communities. She and her team will design a model and build legitimacy for this as a generally accepted practice within mental health institutions.