Senator Bong Go highlighted the urgent need to improve the National Center for Mental Health and to ensure that all Filipinos have access to proper healthcare.
During a public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Health on mental health recently, Go, who chairs the said committee, raised concerns regarding the need for decongestion of the NCMH.
“The state of the National Center for Mental Health is in need of utmost attention and improvement to preserve the basic right of all Filipinos to health care,” the legislator said.
“How can we decongest NCMH in order to improve its current state? Where can we transfer recovered patients who have nowhere to go?” the lawmaker added.
The senator also emphasized the need to provide appropriate intervention and care for admitted patients while also looking into the cases of those who are already considered ‘fit’ to be discharged but have no where to go or no family to go back home to.
“Bigyan po natin sila ng halaga, yung buhay nila.”
“Is the DSWD capable to accommodate them in halfway houses? Kawawa naman. Alam niyo masarap mabuhay sa mundong ito, isang beses lang tayo dadaan, bigyan po natin sila ng halaga, yung buhay nila. Ma-enjoy naman nila after being committed doon sa mga hospital facilities,” he said.
Go also asked concerned authorities to look into the present referral system for patients with pending cases.
He cited that some patients admitted in the mental health hospital who are facing cases in court must be properly assessed to determine whether they should remain in NCMH or be transferred to other facilities.
“What should be the proper referral system for patients with pending cases? Dahil nababalitaan ko marami pong mga may kaso na nandodoon pa sa mental health (hospital),” Go said.
“Bakit sila nako-commit doon? Ngayon, kung pwede na silang lumabas, magaling na sila, maaari bang ibalik na po doon sa kulungan para ma-decongest naman po itong mga mental health facilities natin?” he added.
Health authorities during the hearing responded to Go’s concerns, highlighting the protocols in place to determine whether someone has a mental illness, including a neuropsychiatric screening test.
Patients who are committed to mental hospitals with a court order are already considered to need psychiatric treatment, and mental health professionals assess their fitness for trial or the need for further treatment.
Those deemed mentally competent will face trial for their actions.
In a separate interview at the Senate after the said hearing, Go addressed the allegations of corruption at NCMH, stating that if there are reports of wrongdoing, an inquiry can be done and referred to the Blue Ribbon Committee.
Meanwhile, he also emphasized the importance of providing proper care to patients in the NCMH, including providing them with the necessary medication and nutrition.
“Ibigay po sa kanila what is due to them. Tao po itong mga pasyente, kahit na may problema sila sa mental health. Paano gagaling kung ‘di ibibigay sa kanila ‘yung nararapat na gamot at pagkain na naayon po sa kanila. Tulungan po natin, mahalin po natin ang mga pasyente natin,” Go emphasized.
An advocate of improved mental healthcare, he has filed Senate Bill No. 1321, or the proposed “Specialty Centers in Every Region Act of 2022”.
The bill aims to establish specialty centers in select DOH-hospitals across the country, with mental health services as one of the specialties offered.
Additionally, Go has filed SBN 1786, which would require public higher education institutions to establish Mental Health Offices on their campuses.
He also serves as co-author of Senator Sherwin Gatchalian’s SBN 379, otherwise known as the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act, which aims to provide mental health services, emotional, developmental and preventive programs, and other support services in the basic education level.
Meanwhile, one of the key initiatives he pushed for in the 2023 budget is the improvement of benefit packages of PhilHealth.
According to Go, the 2023 budget includes a special provision for the improvement of benefit packages of PhilHealth including mental health packages.
This provision is crucial given the sharp increase in mental health issues and the inaccessibility of mental health services.
“Mayroon pong P1.86 billion ang DOH for mental health medicines, under the 2023 national budget.”
“Mayroon pong P1.86 billion ang DOH for mental health medicines, under the 2023 national budget. Mayroon din pong P12 million budget for mental health awareness and hotline,” he shared.
“We have consistently advocated for increased funding for medical (mental) health programs. For example, in 2021, the DOH was granted an additional P384 million for its mental health program, while in 2022, an additional P200 million was allocated for the same purpose,” Go concluded.