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Roque bats for increased mental health funding

Harry Roque

UniTeam senatorial candidate Harry Roque has called on Congress to augment the budget for the underfunded Mental Health Act being implemented by the inter-agency Philippine Council for Mental Health (PCMH).

The DOH chaired the PCMH, with members from the education, labor, interior and local government departments and the human rights and higher education commissions.

Roque was an author of Republic Act 11306, which enhances the delivery of integrated mental health services to Filipinos and protects the rights of those availing psychosocial health services.

“Both the executive and legislative should work closely towards the realization of the law,” Roque said. “The solution no longer rests on lawmaking but rather on implementation.”

The former member of the 17th Congress noted that the health department has failed to implement the law due to insufficient budget. Congress appropriated Php 181.3 billion as the DOH budget for 2022.

In the health department’s budget briefer, based on the 2022 national expenditure program (NEP), Php 568 million was allocated for the prevention, treatment, and control of mental health conditions.

Under the mental health law, the amount allocated for mental health shall be based on the Council’s strategic plan. The amount shall be included in the NEP as the basis for the general appropriations bill.

“We have classified mental health disorders as diseases that should be cured and managed,’ Roque said. “As a consequence of the pandemic, it is understandable why several people are suffering from a range of mental health conditions.”

The principal author of the Universal Health Care act pushed for the full implementation of psychiatric facilities in selected hospitals and more 24/7 hotlines nationwide to deal with the problem of suicide arising from mental disorders.

Roque suggested that the Senate exercise its oversight power on the health technology assessment committee (HTAC) to authorize more funding for mental health services.

The HTAC, formed under the healthcare law, can recommend financing health technologies and benefits packages to DOH and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

The HTAC also recommends and determines the range of entitlements such as medicines, pharmaceutical devices, procedures, and services provided under the Universal Health Care act.

At least 3.6 million Filipinos suffered from a mental, neurological, substance abuse disorder in 2020, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Philippine Special Initiative for Mental Health.

The Philippine economy has been losing P68.9 billion annually to mental health conditions based on a 2021 Investment Case Report on Mental Health presented by DOH and the United Nations.

In 2021, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that deaths due to intentional self-harm increased by 57.3 percent between 2019 and 2020. From the 2,810 thousand registered deaths in 2019, the number spiked to 4,420 thousand deaths the following year.

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