Proposed “Comprehensive Mental Health Act” gets House backing

The House committee on health chaired by Rep. Angelina Tan (4th District, Quezon) recently approved a substitute bill which seeks to establish a national mental health policy to enhance the mental health services delivery in the country.

The bill, otherwise known as the proposed Comprehensive Mental Health Act, aims to ensure a community of Filipinos who are mentally healthy, able to contribute to the development of the country and attain a better quality of life through access to an integrated, well-planned, effectively organized, and efficiently delivered mental health care system that responds to the people's mental health needs in equity with their physical health needs.

The unnumbered bill substituted House Bill Nos. 349, 584, 1040, 1698, 3796, 4101, 4184, 4301 and 4686, all seeking to promote and protect persons utilizing psychiatric, neurological and psychosocial health services.

The bill refers to mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

It refers to mental health services as psychosocial, psychiatric or neurologic activities and programs along with the whole range of mental health support spectrum, including promotion, prevention, treatment and aftercare, which are provided by mental health facilities and mental health professionals.

The bill is in line with the policy of the State to protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.

The bill also seeks to integrate mental health care in the general health delivery system, especially the programs of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for the mentally disabled persons.

Moreover, it intends to integrate, introduce and promote the study of mental health in both elementary and secondary educational systems to prevent depression, obesity and teenage pregnancy among students of this age group, among other things.

The bill provides that every person shall have the right to the best available mental health care, which shall be part of the health and social care and protection system.

As such, every person with a mental illness or who is being treated for a mental illness shall have the right to receive humane treatment and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person as well as the right to protection from economic, sexual and other forms of exploitation, physical or other abuse and degrading treatment.

Such person has also the right against discrimination on the ground of mental illness, including the right to receive treatment in the least restrictive environment and in the least restrictive manner.

Furthermore, the person with mental illness has the right to exercise all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights respecting individual qualities, abilities and diverse backgrounds and without any discrimination on grounds of physical disability, age, gender, sexual orientation, race, color, language, civil status, religion or national or ethnic or social origin of the service user concerned as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the International Covenant on Civil Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons; and the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, among others.

The mental health services provided pursuant to this Act shall be based, when feasible on: research findings; individual clinical needs, cultural and ethnic needs and other special needs of individuals being served; and most appropriate and least restrictive setting available to the local mental health authority, accessible to all age groups and provided by qualified individuals and delivered in a manner that provides accountability.

To achieve the policy and objectives of the Act, the DOH shall, among other things, formulate, develop, and implement a national mental health program in close coordination with, and active involvement of, persons with disabilities and their respective organizations, and other users of mental health facilities and services, including their careers, and mental health professionals.

Other responsibilities of the DOH are :ensure that a safe, therapeutic, and hygienic environment with sufficient privacy exists in all mental health facilities; regulation, licensing, monitoring, and assessment of all mental health facilities; and coordinate with PhilHealth to ensure that insurance packages equivalent to those covering physical disorders of comparable impact to the patient, as measured by Disability-Adjusted Life Year or other methodologies, are available to patients affected by mental disorders.

The bill also provides that the Philippine Mental Health Council, which was established under Executive Order 470, shall be reconstituted and strengthened as an attached agency under the DOH to provide for a coherent, rational and unified response to mental health problems, concerns and efforts through the formulation of the National Mental Health Care Delivery Services.

The Secretary of the Health, in consultation with concerned public and private stakeholders, shall determine the composition, functions and support staff of the Council within 90 days after the effectivity of the Act.

The DOH shall develop the National Mental Health Care Services Delivery System within six months from the effectivity of the Act. The System shall constitute a quality mental health care program, which shall include: 1) enhancement of integrated mental health services; 2) promotion and protection of persons utilizing mental health services, prescribing measures for the prevention and control of mental disorders through the development of efficient and effective structures, systems and mechanisms; and 3) effective delivery of mental health care to all its stakeholders by qualified, competent, compassionate and ethical mental health professionals and mental health workers.

The National Mental Health Care Services Delivery System shall also include and institute a nationwide mental health information and education program.

It shall include features such as an age-specific schedule of mental health issues, including commonly known mental illnesses and disorders as well as risk factors that have been clinically determined to affect one's mental health; standards and policies that will ensure conditions for a safe therapeutic and hygienic environment with sufficient privacy in mental health facilities as well as duties and responsibilities of each government agency concerned with mental health in the implementation of the National Mental Health Care Services Delivery System.

The bill proposes that each local government unit (LGU), upon its determination of the necessity based on well-supported data provided by its local health office, shall establish or upgrade hospitals and facilities with adequate and qualified personnel, equipment and supplies to be able to provide mental health services and to address psychiatric emergencies.

Meanwhile, each local health care, pursuant to its duty to provide mental health services and consistent with the policy of treating drug dependency as a mental health issue, must be capable of conducting drug screening and for this purpose, must employ at least one DOH physician who is licensed to conduct such examination.

Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano, one of the principal authors of the bill, said in the Philippines, there are studies which reveal the extent of mental health needs of the country's population. The Global School Based Health Survey (WHO 2011) shows that 16 percent of students between 13 and 15 years old have ever ''seriously considered attempting suicide during the past year'' while 13 percent have ''actually attempted suicide one or more times during the past year."

Cayetano further cited that a study conducted by the DOH among government employees in Metro Manila revealed that 32 percent out of 327 respondents have experienced a mental health problem in their lifetime (DOH 2006). A separate study showed that almost one per 100 households (0.7 percent) has a member with mental disability (DOH SWS 2004) while intentional self-harm is the ninth leading cause of death among 20 to 24 years old (DOH 2003).

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Romero Quimbo said that in recent years, mental health has not been given the attention it needs. He said the State lacks resources to effectively provide and sufficiently address the growing number of mental health disorders. Research indicates that 75 percent to 85 percent of people from in low and middle-income countries suffering from mental disorders do not receive treatment for at least a year.

Other authors of the bill include Reps. Linabelle Ruth Villarica (4th District, Bulacan), Ron Salo (Party-list, KABAYAN), Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City), Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr. (Lone District, Ifugao), Chiqui Roa-Puno (1st District, Antipolo City), Tomasito Villarin (Party-list, AKBAYAN), Carlos Isagani Zarate (Party-list, BAYAN MUNA), John Marvin Yul Servo Nieto (3rd District, Manila) and Edward Maceda (4th District, Manila).

Source: House of Representatives

Related posts