Mental health care failing

The parents of a 21-year-old autistic man who died in a private care institution in Athens asked authorities yesterday to look into the quality of care for the mentally ill amid claims there is a lack of specialized staff and that the system leaves some sufferers at great risk. Stelios Mastropoulos choked to death on Monday night at a home in Kifissia, northern Athens, where he had been transferred seven months ago as part of a government program to take people with serious behavioral and learning difficulties out of asylums and provide greater care in the community. However, the 21-year-old’s parents told Kathimerini that private homes do not have the expertise to deal with patients such as Stelios, who suffered from severe autism which can lead to aggressive behavior. There are more than 50,000 autistic Greeks. «For seven months, not only did they not offer the child anything, they turned him into a vegetable,» claimed Stelios’s mother Katerina Papathoma-Mastropoulou. «They gave him medicine and injections constantly.» The Athina nursing home said it gave the best care it could to Stelios but managers admitted to Kathimerini that the center was not equipped to treat the 21-year-old and had asked for him to be transferred back to the Attica Children’s Psychiatric Hospital which looked after him between 2000 and 2006. Child psychologist Alexandra Roussou told Kathimerini that the practice of providing more care in the community was a good idea but is not being acted on properly as the expertise is not yet in place. «Stelios should have been moved to a unit that specializes in treating autistic adults but this does not exist in Greece,» she said. There are 420 private, non-profit care homes and state-run centers operating in Greece. Most were created after 2002 as part of the care in the community program. «Care homes are fine but they are not enough,» said Roussou.