By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Bacolod Rep. Greg Gasataya expressed hope Tuesday that his bill seeking to recruit, hire, and train additional state universities and college (SUC) -based mental health personnel would hurdle the 18th Congress, saying that it would “supplement” the Mental Health Act, which was signed into law in June last year.
The principal author of House Bill 573 thanked the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education, chaired by Baguio Rep. Mark Go, for recently passing his measure.
“The intent of the bill is to make mental health care more accessible to the public, especially to the youth. I am very grateful for the help of the Committee on Higher and Technical Education (CHED) and my dear colleagues, it was because of their inputs that we were able to refine our bill,” Gasataya said in an interview.
“I am really hopeful that this measure will pass, in supplement of the recently enacted Mental Health Act. Mental health is often overlooked. We must address the need for mental healthcare as it affects mostly the youth,” he said.
He said the Go panel decided to amend the purpose of the bill and “include the faculty and employees of SUCs as part of those we want to assist.”
Under Gasataya’s House Bill 573 or the proposed State Universities and Colleges Mental Health Act of 2019, each SUC shall have at least three mental health professionals to address the increasing need for mental healthcare among students.
Gasataya disclosed that one of the “significant amendments” introduced to his bill was “to have the option to hire professionals on a part time/contractual/consultant basis to attract more professionals from private practice.”
“They also suggested to make the number of personnel required not fixed and instead in proportion to the number of students or the size of the community,” he added.
Gasataya maintained that the mental health personnel for tertiary educational institutions remains limited despite the increasing need for mental healthcare among students.
He noted that there are only 490 psychiatrists who cater to the country’s ballooning population.
“Their services remain inaccessible to the poor due to costly consultations,” he said.
He sounded the alarm over the suicide rate in the country, saying that it is 2.5 percent for men and 1.7 percent for women for every 100,000 Filipinos, as disclosed by the National Center for Mental Health of the Department of Health (DOH).
“The lack of legislation, according to leading psychologists and psychiatrists, may well be among the reasons our suicide rate continues to increase, ” he pointed out.
“Improved mental health services would help prevent spiteful incidences among college students and would assist in their holistic development as we eliminate the emotional, behavorial, and psycho-social barriers to learning,” Gasataya said.
House Bill 573 tasks the Secretary of Education, subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Department of Health to issue the necessary guidelines in the selection, recruitment and hiring of personnel and the nature and the scope of mental health services to be offered 120 days after the effectivity of the proposed Act.