Recently, Senator Risa Hontiveros announced that the President has finally passed the Philippine Mental Health Law (RA 11036).

“Help is finally here. This is the victory of the different advocates who helped in crafting the bill and ensured its passage from the time we filed it last October 2016,” posted Hontiveros, who is the author and principal sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “I am glad and honored to be a messenger of hope for the numerous mental health professionals, persons with mental health concerns, youth and students who lent their voice in order for this landmark legislation to see the light of day.”

What does the new Philippine Mental Health Law mean for us? Here are a few of the more important points we found:

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It makes treatment available at all levels of the national health system.

Section 30 (k): The DOH shall . . . establish a balanced system of community-based and hospital-based mental health services at all levels of the public health care system from the barangay, municipal, city, provincial, regional to the national level

It asserts patients’ rights to receive humane treatment.

Section 5 (g) and (h): Service users shall enjoy the right to . . . access to psychosocial care and clinical treatment in the least restrictive environment and manner; humane treatment free from solitary confinement, torture, and other forms of cruel, inhumane, harmful or degrading treatment and invasive procedures not backed by scientific evidence.

It states that patients have the right to give their full, informed consent before they receive any treatment, as well as the right to appoint their own legal representatives.

Section 5 (m) and (o): Service users shall enjoy the right to . . . give informed consent before receiving treatment or care, including the right to withdraw such consent; designate or appoint a person of legal age to act as his or her legal representative in accordance with this Act, except in cases of impairment or temporary loss of decision-making capacity.

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It pushes to remove the stigma surrounding mental health disorders by requiring local government units, schools, and companies to spread awareness.

Section 24: Educational institutions . . . shall develop policies and programs . . . designed to: raise awareness on mental health issues, identify and provide support and services for individuals at risk, and facilitate access, including referral mechanisms of individuals with mental health conditions to treatment and psychosocial support.

Section 25: Employers shall develop appropriate policies and programs on mental health in the workplace designed to: raise awareness on mental health issues, correct the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health conditions, identify and provide support for individuals at risk, and facilitate access of individuals with mental health conditions to treatment and psychosocial support.

It states that treatment and medication for mental health conditions will be covered under PhilHealth.

Section 30 (f): The DOH shall . . . coordinate with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to ensure that insurance packages equivalent to those covering physical disorders of comparable impact to the patient . . . are available to patients affected by mental health conditions.

It charges the DSWD with working with local government units and the DOH to provide “community resilience and psychosocial well-being training." This includes counseling services in the event of natural disasters.

Section 36 (c): The DSWD shall . . . in coordination with the LGUs and the DOH, formulate, develop, and implement community resilience and psychosocial well-being training, including psychosocial support services during and after natural disasters and other calamities.

It establishes a Philippine Council for Mental Health and charges it with ensuring that the Mental Health Act is properly implemented.

Section 39: The Philippine Council for Mental Health . . . is hereby established as a policy-making, planning, coordinating and advisory body, attached to the DOH to oversee the implementation of this Act, particularly the protection of the rights and freedom of persons with psychiatric, neurologic, and psychosocial needs and the delivery of a rational, unified, and integrated mental health services responsive to the needs of the Filipino people.

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It recognizes drug addition as a mental health issue and requires all local health care facilities to be capable of administering drug tests.

Section 20: Pursuant to its duty to provide mental health services and consistent with the policy of treating drug dependency as a mental health issue, each local health care facility must be capable of conducting drug screening.

It states that people who voluntarily submit themselves or who are charged under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 will be examined for mental health conditions. Those found to have mental health conditions will be covered under the provisions of the Philippine Mental Health Act.

Section 43: Persons who avail of the voluntary submission provision and persons charged pursuant to Republic Act. No. 9165 . . . shall undergo an examination for mental health conditions and, if found to have mental health conditions, shall be covered by the provisions of this Act.

It criminalizes failure to obtain informed consent from a mental health patient, violating the patient’s right to confidentiality, discrimination against people with mental health conditions, and administering inhumane treatment. The penalty for these acts is imprisonment of six months to two years, or a fine of P10,000 to P200,000.

Section 44: Any person who commits any of the following acts shall, upon conviction by final judgment, be punished by imprisonment of not less than six (6) months, but not more than two (2) years, or a fine of not less than Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00), but not more than Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00), or both, at the discretion of the court: Failure to secure informed consent of the service user, unless it falls under the exceptions provided under Section 13 of this Act; Violation of the confidentiality of information; Discrimination against a person with a mental health condition; Administering inhumane, cruel, degrading, or harmful treatment not based on medical or scientific evidence.

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Some parts of the law do leave us with a few questions. For example, if a person charged with drug use is found to have a mental health condition, what are the implications of being covered under the provisions of Philippine Mental Health Act? How will this new law interplay with the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act? We'll have to wait for the Implementing Rules and Regulations to provide critical information on how the law will affect us.

We're certainly excited to see how this plays out. If properly implemented, the Philippine Mental Health Law could have an overwhelmingly positive impact on the perception of mental illness in the Philippines, as well as the quality of life of Filipinos with mental disorders.

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This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Femalenetwork.com editors.

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