₱5.69 per Filipino: Quimbo laments DOH's low 2021 budget for mental health program

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 18) — Marikina 2nd district Rep. Stella Quimbo on Friday called out the Department of Health for apparently giving low priority to the psychological wellbeing of Filipinos, as evidenced by the budget per capita it allocated for its mental health program for 2021.

The DOH set aside ₱615.5 million for the provision of drugs for mental illnesses, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje of the Public Health Services Team told the House appropriations committee after being asked by Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago if the DOH allotted funds for the implementation of the two-year-old mental health law or Republic Act 11036.

This means that the budget for every Filipino is just almost ₱6, smaller than the budget per capita in 2017, which was at ₱12.19, Quimbo estimated.

“Kung i-divide natin sa 108 million na population ngayon, ang lalabas na budget para sa bawat Pilipino ay ₱5.69 lamang po.”

[Translation: When we divide ₱615 million to our population of around 108 million, the budget for every Filipino is just ₱5.69.]

Cabotaje admitted that the budget is “very low for the mental health program.”

But she noted that the Department of Budget and Management did not approve their proposed additional expenses worth ₱73 billion for their medicine access program.

Aside from this, the legislator also asked if the DOH has established a mental health division pursuant to Section 43 of the mental health act.

Cabotaje once again pointed to DBM, which she said, has yet to authorize the department’s recruitment of eight mental health office personnel. In the interim, she said the agency has hired contractual staff to help in the mental health program.

The official said the Philippine Council for Mental Health is working to implement the RA 11036, which aims to provide affordable and accessible mental health services to Filipinos.

“May mga polisiya na minomonitor para makita natin kung paano ang pagtugon sa mga nakasaad sa batas,” she added.

[Translation: We monitoring policies which would aid in the implementation of the act.]

Quimbo then asked the DOH to prioritize mental health, especially of the youth, which is “vulnerable” to distress during this time of health crisis.

The health agency earlier reported that alarming spike of mental health-related calls at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, from March to July. A majority of the callers reported anxiety, while other calls are suicide-related.

If you are in need of mental health support, please call the 24/7 National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline at (0917) 899-8727 or (02)7-989-8727 or 1553 (Landline-to-landline only).