MALACAÑANG on Thursday announced that President Rodrigo R. Duterte has signed into law Republic Act (RA) No. 11036 or the Philippine Mental Health Law that mandates the government to provide basic mental health services to Filipinos.
The new law is a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 1354 and House Bill No. 6452 passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives on Feb. 12 this year. Mr. Duterte approved the proposed law last Wednesday, June 20.
Among the law’s objectives, as stated in Section 3, are to protect the rights and freedoms of persons with psychiatric, neurologic, and psychosocial health needs; integrate mental health care in basic health services; and integrate strategies promoting mental health in educational institutions, the workplace, and communities.
In a statement, Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, author and principal sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said in part, “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.”
For his part, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said, “Now that the Philippine Mental Health Law is in place, I urge the Department of Health (DoH) (to oversee) its immediate implementation.”
Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) must “ensure that insurance packages equivalent to those covering physical disorders of comparable impact are available to patients affected by mental disorders.”
“Currently, PhilHealth only covers hospitalization brought about by acute attacks of mental and behavioral disorders at a package rate of P7,800. We hope that in the drafting of the IRR, free psychiatric consultations and medicines shall be made available for all Filipinos,” Mr. Angara also said.
Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, for his part, said the next crucial step is funding. “We hope the government will not renege on its commitment to infuse resources to give life to the law. Funding is needed to pave the way for mental health research, diagnosis and treatment,” he said.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said for his part, “We hope this policy will help neutralize the stigma attached to mental illness. Implementing a universal mental health care system in the country would provide more awareness regarding mental health among Filipinos, especially given the rising number of suicide cases among the youth.” — Arjay L. Balinbin, with Camille A. Aguinaldo