Officials on Saturday broke ground on the construction of a $500,000 mental health centre in Kandal province intended to house those now lingering at Phnom Penh’s notorious Prey Speu facility.
The centre, which will be located on the same site as the Kom Pong Kontouch orphanage in Kandal Stung district, will occupy 2.6 hectares of land belonging to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Phnom Penh spokesman Met Measpheakdey said.
City Hall is providing financial support for the two-storey building, which will have 10 rooms, he added, though he was unable to provide the specific amount of funds the city had contributed.
Currently, the mentally ill are lumped together with the city’s homeless and “undesirables”, at Prey Speu, long a target of rights activists for its dire conditions.
“It’s a little difficult,” Measpheakdeay said of housing them all together. “But we have no choice.” Those suffering from mental illness will be transferred to the centre when it is completed in the next six to seven months, he added.
Sorn Sophal, director of the municipal social affairs department, yesterday said there are about 150 mentally ill housed at Prey Speu.
“We are struggling to control and manage them because we have no skills,” he said.
Officials floated the idea of the new centre last July following a mass escape of 70 people from Prey Speu. That incident came months after Prime Minister Hun Sen demanded the Ministry of Social Affairs to fix the centre or close it.