The House of Representatives has passed on second reading the proposed “Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act”.
Approved via simple voice vote during plenary session Tuesday afternoon, Jan.24 was House Bill (HB) No. 6574.
The measure is a consolidation of four separate bills, namely HB Nos. 929, 3691, 4162 and 4194. These were authored by Pasig City lone district Roman Romulo, Valenzuela City 1st district Rep. Rex Gatchalian, Northern Samar 2nd district Harris Christopher Ongchuan, and Cagayan de Oro 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, respectively.
Romulo, chairman of the House Committee on Basic Education and Culture, delivered a sponsorship speech on the floor before HB No.6574 was put to a vote.
“It is time that Congress acts and Congress provides for guidance counselling for both our teachers and our learners. That is one of our duties and obligations in order to ensure that our teachers and learners are protected in our DepEd schools,” Romulo said.
The bill seeks promote the emotional, psychological and mental health well-being of learners and teachers so as to enhance their classroom and learning preparedness.
This would include learners identified as children in conflict with the law, students at risk of dropping out, learner-victims of Violence Against Women and Children, and learner-victims of other related forms of child abuse and criminal act.
Among the key provisions of the bill are the creation of a Mental Health and Well-Being Office under the administration and supervision of the Department of Education (DepEd) in every school division throughout the country, as well as the hiring and deployment of mental health professionals such that each public school, vocational institution, and offices would have mental health professionals or mental health service providers.
The Mental Health and Well-Being Office at the schools division level shall be headed by a qualified Mental Health Professional with the position of Guidance Services Specialist V with Salary Grade 24.
The House-approved measure also provides for the hiring of a sufficient number of mental health professionals with salary grades not lower than Salary Grade 16, including guidance associates and psychometricians at the entry level of Salary Grade 11.
It also allows public schools to hire graduates with relevant background in psychology or similar fields, who may not yet qualify as mental health professionals, to provide school-based mental health services, provided that they undergo training on capacity building as determined by the DepEd.
The House approved a similar measure on third and final reading during the previous 18th Congress.