SHANGHAI - In the wake of a rising number of violent attacks by people suffering from mental disorders, the Ministry of Public Security has vowed to expand treatment for severe patients who may pose a threat to public safety.
The ministry has asked for at least one Ankang mental hospital to be set up in each province of the country, according to a report on cnhubei.com.
As of now, there are 22 Ankang hospitals in the country's 18 provinces, it added.
A number of provinces, including Central China's Hubei province and Southeast China's Fujian province, have ordered the screening of serious patients with an inclination to violence.
Government-financed Ankang hospitals, which come under the charge of the police, admit only those mental patients who have committed crimes such as homicide, arson and rape, an anonymous ministry official told Xinhua News Agency on Friday.
"It is not only to maintain social order, but also to treat the mental patients and exempt them from criminal punishment as well," the official said.
Since 1998, Ankang mental hospitals across the country have reportedly admitted some 40,000 mental patients, of whom nearly 30 percent have committed felonies.
However, the existing Ankang hospitals are not enough.
Due to their limited number, sometimes other hospitals step in to help, although according to national regulations, only Ankang hospitals are permitted to provide compulsory treatment to mental patients who have committed crimes.
"Given the limited resources, other mental health facilities sometimes give compulsory treatment, but only after government authorization," Sun Dongdong, a mental disease expert at Peking University, was quoted as saying earlier this year.
"Though they may not be as qualified, the government can't just leave those dangerously ill people on the streets."
In addition to boosting the number of Ankang hospitals, the ministry has also urged tightened control in patient admission.
During a meeting on Tuesday, the ministry promised to build a monitoring system to guard off any malpractices and irregularities in disease appraisal.
According to a 2007 survey by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100 million people in China are mentally ill, of which 16 million are gravely ill. China now has 16,000 registered psychiatrists, averaging just over one psychiatrist for 100,000 people.