Sen. Angara bats for mental health services to enhance COVID-19 response

Published May 9, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Mario Casayuran

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara is seeking to amend Republic Act (RA) 11036, or the Mental Health Act, to allow qualified individuals to immediately receive compensation benefits and other financial assistance.

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara (Senator Sonny Angara Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said that, during the current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, mental health has become a critical issue for many people who find it difficult to seek help given the multitude of cases being handled by the overwhelmed health care system.

He cited the celebrated case of Corporal Winston Ragos, a former member of the Army’s 31st Infantry Battalion under the 9th Infantry “Spear” Division, who was shot dead by a policeman after an altercation at a quarantine control point in Barangay Pasong Putik, Quezon City last April 21, 2020.

Ragos was reported to be suffering from mental health issues, which had been bothering him since 2012 while he was still in active duty.

Angara said Ragos was fine when taking the medicine prescribed to him, but when the enhanced community quarantine was imposed over Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon, seeking medical help and replenishing his prescriptions proved to be very challenging for him and his family.

The Mental Health Act requires the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to provide insurance packages to patients affected by mental health conditions, and to ensure they have access to the medicines they need.

“People with mental health conditions should have access to affordable essential health services, at all levels of the national healthcare system,” Angara said.

“However, while we do have the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), VMMC (Veterans Memorial Medical Center) and the Mental Health Act in play to help veterans who need support, the unfortunate incident involving Corporal Ragos emphasizes a need to revisit, reexamine, and realign mental health services,” he added.

Last Monday, Angara filed Senate Bill 1471, which seeks to amend Section 5 of R.A. 11036 to include a section on the “Rights of Service Users.”

The new section gives the service user the right to “immediately receive compensation benefits and/or any special financial assistance” that he or she is entitled to under existing laws, “should the service user sustain temporary or permanent mental disability while in the performance of duty or by reason of his or her office or position.”

“As the case of Corporal Ragos has shown us, some of the existing policies and guidelines need updates to better serve our men in uniform,” Angara said.

“Hopefully, a vaccine against COVID-19 is developed or the lockdown restrictions are eased already because the sooner we can get our lives back to normal—when people are able to go out again and see their friends and families, this will be very beneficial to their mental and emotional health,” he explained.