House leaders have welcomed the P300-million worth of institutional amendments for mental health projects under the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).

220717 Congress Joint Session 02 Romero - P300 M for mental health projects cited

Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, Tarlac Rep. Victor Yap, and Rizal  Rep. Fidel Nograles all emphasized the need to focus on Filipinos’ mental health issues especially with the new coronavirus continuing to hang over everybody’s heads.

“Yes, definitely it’s a good move,” Defensor, Committee on Health vice chairman, said of the institutional amendment which the Department of Health (DoH) will receive.

“Mental health has been getting a meager portion of the budget in the past and the institutional amendment adopted by the House is a clear manifestation of its thrust to support programs and policies for this concern,” he said.

Last week, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said he and the rest of House small committee had greenlit P20 billion in institutional amendments to the proposed P4.506-trillion budget for next year. This was after the fiscal measure, also known as House Bill (HB) No.7727, was approved on third and final reading by the 301-member chamber.

Salceda said that out of the figure, P300 million would be earmarked for “mental health purposes.”

“Mental health is indeed an issue,” commented Yap, chairman of the Communications and Information Technology panel.

“Hopefully the DoH and the NCMH (National Center for Mental Health) do a good job to cover and answer the well-being of Filipinos and protect them directly or indirectly from COVID-19,” said the former provincial governor.

Nograles said that mental health issues shouldn’t be ignored or belittled. “But the fact also remains that psychiatric consultations are not cheap, with one session amounting to thousands of pesos, without counting the cost of medication.”

“So the government, in accordance with the Mental Health Law, should take aggressive steps to subsidize mental health services so that the poor are encouraged to seek help,” the assistant majority leader said.

Nograles had earlier frowned over the meager National Mental Health Program allocation of P615 million in the 2021 budget bill.

He expressed hope that the program would still receive the P1 billion additional funding proposed by his House colleagues. “Not everyone can afford mental health services. This is why government must invest more in our people’s mental health,” he said.

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