Landmark Mental Health Law signed

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Landmark Mental Health Law signed
President Duterte has signed into law a measure that establishes a national mental health policy to allow an integrated approach and delivery of services as well as promote and protect the rights of persons with mental health issues.
Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — Drug abusers and those harboring suicidal thoughts can now have better access to mental health counseling.

President Duterte has signed into law a measure that establishes a national mental health policy to allow an integrated approach and delivery of services as well as promote and protect the rights of persons with mental health issues.

Republic Act 11036 also reiterates the Philippines’ commitment to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and all other relevant international and regional conventions and declarations. It also recognizes the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons under RA 7277.

“The State commits itself to promoting the well-being of people by ensuring that: mental health conditions are treated and prevented: timely, affordable, high-quality and culturally appropriate mental health care is available to the public; mental health services are free from coercion and accountable to the service users,” the law read. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said Duterte’s OK for the new law is “a testament of the President’s commitment to provide accessible and affordable mental health care and services to all Filipinos.”

“It forms part of the government’s mandate to design and implement a national mental health program and integrate this as part of the health information system, among others,” Roque said.

“We hope this policy will help neutralize the stigma attached to mental illness. Implementing a universal mental healthcare system in the country would provide more awareness regarding mental health among Filipinos, especially given the rising number of suicide cases among the youth,” the spokesman said.

The law also mandates that persons affected by mental health conditions are able to exercise the full range of human rights and participate fully in society and at work.

It also mandates the Department of Health to make sure that responsive primary mental health services are developed and integrated as part of basic health services.

Local government units and academic institutions are required to coordinate with all concerned government agencies and the private sector for the implementation of the program.

As this developed, senators welcomed the enactment of the law, which they said would provide people with mental illness the help they need.

Senate committee on health and demography chairman Joseph Victor Ejercito said the law would help people suffering from depression and prevent suicide.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who has been pushing for the enactment of the law, said it would set the path for the government’s policy in integrating mental healthcare in the country’s public health system. 

“This is the victory of the different advocates who helped in crafting the bill and ensured its passage from the time we filed it last October 2016. I am glad and honored to be a messenger of hope for the numerous mental health professionals, persons with mental health concerns, youth and students who lent their voice in order for this landmark legislation to see the light of day,” Hontiveros said. 

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the signing of the law would make a difference in the lives of people with mental illness.

“Those afflicted by this health problem should no longer lurk in the dark. The next crucial step is funding, and we hope the government will not renege on its commitment to infuse resources to give life to the law,” Pangilinan said.

Sen. Sonny Angara urged the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to cover fees for psychiatric consultations and medicine, as early intervention and prevention are crucial in treating mental illness.

Under the Mental Health Act, Angara said PhilHealth must ensure that insurance packages equivalent to those covering physical disorders of comparable impact are available to patients affected by mental disorders. 

Sen. Joel Villanueva said the law would make mental health care accessible down to the barangays and promote mental health education in schools and workplaces.

Members of the House of Representatives also lauded the signing of the law.

“The signing of this important health legislation comes at an auspicious time, considering the recent tragic deaths of American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade that caught the attention of millions of people the world over on the importance of putting due attention to the mental and psychological well-being of every individual,” said Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan, chair of the House committee on health and author of the law.

She said the law particularly addresses the mental health problems of drug dependents.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, one of the authors, hoped that with the passage of the law, the integration of balanced mental health services would be made to promote sound minds and prevent mental problems.

House Deputy Speaker Romero Quimbo, principal author of the bill, also lauded Duterte for signing the law. 

“Truly fantastic news. It’s a bill that languished in Congress for almost 20 years. Finally, the long wait is over. Today’s signing of the Mental Health Law will hopefully usher in the prevention of thousands of suicides that have been plaguing our country,” Quimbo said. 

“This is just the beginning, with a concrete policy to end the stigma and address the mental health needs of Filipinos now put into law, all advocates, policymakers, and stakeholders who worked hard to get this law passed must now turn their attention to ensuring that it is properly and effectively implemented,” he added. – With Marvin Sy, Jess Diaz, Delon Porcalla




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