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House OKs mental health bill

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has approved on second reading a bill providing for a comprehensive national mental healthcare program and its integration with the country’s primary healthcare delivery system.

The committee on health chaired by Quezon Rep. Angelita Tan and committee on appropriations headed by Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles endorsed House Bill 6452 or the Comprehensive Mental Health Act.

The measure is a consolidation of several related bills.

Tan and Antipolo Rep. Chiqui Roa Puno, author of one of the bills, sponsored the measure.

Also approved on second reading is another proposed law authored by the Quezon congresswoman. It seeks to provide scholarships to medical students in state universities and colleges provided they This requirement will make more doctors available in rural areas, Tan said.

Tan, a community doctor before seeking public office, said the approval of the mental health bill is timely because of the increasing number of Filipinos with mental illnesses.

“We have to have a comprehensive program to deal with these ailments. Through the bill, the government should be able to provide mental healthcare not only in specialized institutions but in big state-owned hospitals in the provinces,” she said.

Puno said the measure seeks “to promote mental wellness, prevent the progress of mental health problems through intervention and properly address existing mental disorders.”

“We need to ease the pain of the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos with mental health conditions who often suffer in silence, so that they no longer feel alone and helpless in dealing with their mental health woes,” she said.

According to Lourdes Ignacio of the UP College of Medicine, one in three Filipinos has a mental health problem.

The proposed mental health law mandates the Department of Health (DOH) to formulate a national mental healthcare program in coordination with persons with mental disability and their organizations, their families, caregivers and mental health professionals. 

The DOH would also be tasked to develop an extensive delivery system that could provide mental healthcare up to the regional and provincial levels.

Local government units would be asked to upgrade their hospitals and recruit competent staff so they could provide mental health service.

The bill defines the responsibilities of all concerned government agencies and mental health service providers.

Funds needed for the envisioned comprehensive national mental healthcare program would be included in the DOH budget.

Violators of the proposed law face imprisonment of six months to two years or a fine of P10,000 to P200,000 or both, at the discretion of the court.

The DOH will be mandated to issue implementing rules and regulations. 

Other authors of the consolidated bill include Romero Quimbo of Marikina, Pia Cayetano of Taguig, Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list, Jericho Nograles of Puwesa ng Bayaning Atleta and Tom Villarin of Akbayan.

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