The House Committee on Health approved on Tuesday the consolidation of bills seeking to improve mental health services in the country.
These include measures proposing the establishment of accessible and age-appropriate mental health services for children and adolescents, the creation of mental health centers in every province and region, the setting up of mental health consultation desks and government-run mental health hotline, the expansion of PhilHealth coverage to include benefit package to all mental health disorders, and other interventions to prevent youth suicide.
“According to the National Statistics Office, mental health illness ranks as the third most common form of morbidity among our countrymen. A prevalence of 16% of mental disorders affect children. There are only 5 government hospitals with psychiatric facilities for children, 84 general hospitals with psychiatric units," said Mandaluyong City Representative Neptali Gonzales II, author of House Bill 429.
"Those in the provinces with mental health problems do not have access to or have less access to support and intervention of this nature," he added. “We have the responsibility to be more responsive to our young population.”
The Department of Health lauded the intent of the measures, but noted that they are already stipulated in the Mental Health Act and its implementing rules and regulations.
“The DOH recommends that the bills align instead with the direction of existing laws, policies and initiatives to ensure the gaps in implementation are being addressed efficiently,” DOH’s Dr. Jan Aura Llevado told the panel.
She said the agency is amenable to a regular review of the packages provided by PhilHealth to individuals availing of mental health services, in order to assess if the prevailing rate is adequate to complement the increasing cost of essential medicines and services.
The DOH, however, admitted that human resource is a challenge in the effort to establish additional mental health centers in provinces.
“Creation of infrastructure will also heighten the need for human resources for health and these infrastructure need to be complemented by standard staffing personnel,” Llevado said.
“What we’re doing in the Department of Health is to capacitate our primary care providers, those in the rural health units, in our city health offices to be able to provide mental health services,” she added.