Bill creating DepEd mental health offices for pupils, teachers OK'd on 3rd reading

The proposal to create mental health offices in school divisions as a way to address the emotional, psychological, and mental health needs of pupils and teachers has moved one step closer to enactment.

(Anthony Tran/ Unsplash)

This, after the House of Representatives unanimously passed on third and final reading House Bill (HB) No. 6574 during plenary session Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 31.

Deputy Speaker and Batangas 6th district Rep. Ralph Recto, who presided over Tuesday's session, declared the measure approved following the conduct of a nominal vote. The measure received 272 affirmative votes.

The measure mandates the creation of Mental Health and Well-being Office under the Department of Education (DepEd) in every school division throughout the country.

HB No. 6574 provides for the hiring and deployment of mental health professionals to public elementary and secondary schools, vocational institutions, and offices in the central, regional, and school division governance levels of the DepEd within five years.

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. Dozens of other congressmen have since been accepted as co-authors of the consolidated measure.

The solon said the proposed law will help students in the classroom and learning preparedness, especially 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 acts.

To ensure the efficient implementation of the proposed legislation, the bill requires the creation of sufficient Guidance Counselors and Guidance Services Specialist positions according to minimum standards to be determined by the DepEd and the Department of Health (DOH), in coordination with the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The school’s division-level Mental Health and Well-being Office shall be headed by a qualified Mental Health Professional with the position of Guidance Services Specialist V with Salary Grade 24.

Under the bill, DepEd will also provide for sufficient resources for mental health programs and projects designed to maintain and address the mental health and well being of learners and personnel.

It also stresses that mental health professionals shall enjoy the rights and privileges provided for in the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers, Mental Health Act, and other pertinent laws.

The National Statistics Office (NSO) reported in 2019 that mental health illnesses rank as the third most common form of morbidity among Filipinos.

The Department of Health (DOH) said that at least 3.6 million Filipinos are facing mental health issues amid the Covid-19 pandemic.