Probe into mental health care

A Health Ministry investigation was launched yesterday into the death of a 21-year-old autistic man at a private care center as experts continued to slam the level of mental health care available in Greece. Health Minister Dimitris Avramapoulos ordered inspectors to look into whether the death of Stelios Mastropoulos, who suffered from severe autism, could have been avoided. He was transferred from a specialist center at the Attica Children’s Psychiatric Hospital (PNA) to a private care institution seven months ago as part of a drive to care for patients in the community rather than at asylums. The director of PNA, Christina Econompoulou, is set to be replaced as part of the response to the young man’s death because authorities allegedly failed to act when it became clear that the care home in Kifissia, northern Athens, did not have the expertise to treat him. The Health Ministry said yesterday that the care home informed PNA officials last July – one month after Mastropoulos was transferred – that he was displaying serious behavioral problems. A team of experts was sent to the institution and confirmed the problems Mastropoulos was suffering but failed to recommend his return to the PNA. However, hospital officials claim they offered advice to medical staff at the home on how to treat Mastropoulos but they were rebuffed. The president of the Greek Society for the Protection of Autistic People, Christos Alexiou, told Kathimerini that Greece severely lacks facilities to deal with autism sufferers. «There is a total lack of infrastructure,» he said. «There are no special schools for children and there are only two units for autistic adults… There are 50,000 autistic children in this country. What will happen when they grow up?»