A PARTY-LIST lawmaker on Monday sought the passage of a proposed law seeking to create a national call center for mental health issues as well as deploy mental health workers in every barangay in order to make the services more accessible in the grassroots level across the country.
In House Bill (HB) 7210, Ang Probinsyano Rep. Alfred Delos Santos, a an ally and friend of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) led by House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez as President, pushed the approval of his bill following the recent spike in the number of Filipinos facing mental health issues due to coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Delos Santos explained that the creation of a nationwide government-run mental health emergency hotline is aimed at providing telephone and mobile numbers, which are accessible to the public for immediate assistance and medical intervention.
According to Delos Santos, the proposed measure seeks to further strengthen the Mental Health Act of 2018 and the constitutional provision on the state’s responsibility to “protect and promote the right to health of the people.”
“It is in furtherance of these policies and commitments that this bill is proposed,” Delos Santos explained. “We should take charge in building community awareness and boosting the accessibility of the government’s mental health services.”
Under his bill, or the proposed Accessible Mental Health Services Act, Delos Santos said that a devoted hotline manned by mental health workers should be made available to the public 24/7 nationwide for consultation and emergency psychological response
This national mental health emergency hotline shall be created by the Department of Health (DoH), with the assistance of the National Telecommunications Commission and the Department of Information and Communications Technology.
The National Center for Mental Health reported last month that its crisis hotline received about 30 to 35 calls a day when the quarantine restrictions were imposed as a response to stop the spread of COVID-19 virus, from an average of 13 to 15 calls per day prior to the lockdown. And as of end-May, the monthly average of suicide-related calls the center received reached 45.
“Mahalaga po na magkaroon tayo ng isang national emergency hotline na tututok lamang sa pangangailangan ng mga mamamayan sa isyu ng mental health para sa agarang pagtugon,” the party-list lawmaker said.
“Lalo na ngayon sa panahon ng pandemya, maraming agam-agam, pagkabalisa at alalahanin dahil sa walang katiyakan kung kalian magbabalik sa normal ang buhay natin, higit na kailangan ng kausap at suporta ang mga tao,” he added.
An important component of the bill is making available barangay mental health workers, with the support of city or municipal mental health professionals, to attend to Filipinos who need immediate medical assistance. “This way, we make mental health services more accessible by bringing it close to every Filipino family in the barangay level,” Delos Santos said.
Based on his proposal, at least one DoH-trained mental health worker should be assigned in every barangay who will serve as the first community responder and field personnel in all matters relating to mental health. The tasks include regular visits to persons diagnosed with mental health condition and assistance to persons with mental health conditions and their families in accessing services in government hospitals, and connecting them with mental health professionals, among others.
Delos Santos is proposing the amount of P25 million for the initial implementation of the measure and the creation of implementing rules and regulations within six months to be spearheaded by the DoH.