Senators laud House move to pass mental health bill

MANILA -- Senators have lauded the move of the House of Representatives (HoR) for passing on third and final reading its version of the Mental Health Bill.

With 223 affirmative votes, zero negative votes, and no abstentions, the House approve the Mental Health Act on third and final reading.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, sponsor of the counterpart bill in the Senate, said that she looked forward to working with her colleagues in Congress to finalize the bill.

I am looking forward to working with my colleagues in Congress in finalizing the bill and having it signed into law before the year ends as a wonderful Christmas gift to the Filipino people, Hontiveros said in a press statement.

Hontiveros said that after being one of the few countries left without a mental health policy, the Philippines now one step closer to implementing a policy that would respond to the mental health needs of Filipinos.

Once enacted into law, the measure will integrate mental health into the general health care system, she added.

Senator Joel Villanueva described the legislation as an important policy that addresses the concerns of our fellow Filipinos who are in dire need of accessible mental health care.

As one of the authors of the bill's counterpart version, Villanueva said that he had inserted a provision that proposes to standardize collection and management of data and promote evidence-based research on youth suicide; and institutionalize the 24/7 national hotline for suicide prevention.

He, meanwhile, expressed hope that during the bicameral conference committee hearing, both chambers would be able to reconcile the differences.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, like his colleagues, is also hopeful that the bicameral committee will meet immediately to come up with a draft that will be submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte for his signature.

It's about time that we enact a mental health law. We are one of the very few countries today that has no national mental health policy, Angara said.

Angara further said that the measure is necessary so people would no longer suffer silently in the dark.

Last May, the Senate passed its version of the Mental Health Bill with 19 affirmative votes, zero negative votes, and no abstentions.

Senate Bill No. 1354 (Mental Health Act 2017) seeks to establish a national mental health policy to enhance the delivery of integrated mental health services.

It is also meant to promote and protect persons utilizing psychiatric, neurologic and psychosocial health services, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes.

The bill was authored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Tito Sotto and Senators Risa Hontiveros, Juan Edgardo Angara, Antonio Trillanes IV, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Loren Legarda and Joel Villanueva.

Source: Philippine News Agency