February 9, 2023

“There is no physical health without mental health.”

Councilors Levy Lloyd Orcales and Joel Alangsab quoted this adage in their proposed ordinance that seeks to create a citywide mental health care and wellness program.

Mental health is a part of the totality of a person; thus, it must be protected and maintained through the intervention of the city government, the councilors said.

The proposed law aims to provide responsive, socio-culturally appropriate, context-based, and timely mental health services in the community, schools, and hospitals to address the needs of individuals with psychological, mental health, psychiatric, and neuropsychiatric concerns.

Under the proposed program, the Baguio City Mental Health Council (BMHC) shall be created. The BMHC shall serve as the advisory body to the city council and as a policymaking body for the implementation of community and recovery-based measures.

The BMHC shall consist of the mayor as the chairperson; the chairperson of the city council committee on health and sanitation, ecology, and environmental protection as the vice chairperson; and the city health services officer as the action officer.

The BMHC shall convene other city officials, agencies, associations, offices, and experts from the field of psychology as members.

The BMHC shall ensure that services provided by the city’s mental health care program is responsive to the clinical, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds, ages, and genders of the individuals being served; appropriate and not restrictive; proactive, sustainable, and outcome-based; and provided by licensed health workers.

The proposed ordinance stipulates that mental health services must be preventive and promotive. To achieve this, the following measures are proposed:

Citywide multimedia campaigns to raise the level of public awareness on the promotion and protection of people’s mental health;

A 24/7 mental health helpline to provide assistance to individuals with mental health conditions, especially individuals at risk of suicide ideation;

Community-based information forums participated by all barangay officials including the Sangguniang Kabataan officials to capacitate them in advocating and promoting mental health awareness;

A school-based mental health program formulated by the schools’ respective guidance counselors, school nurse, administrators, and other concerned staff; and

A mental health program to be integrated in private and public workplaces formulated by their respective human resource and management officers.

The proposal also asserts the mental health services offered by the city’s program must be curative and rehabilitative and seeks to mandate the provision of a psychiatric treatment by the City Health Services Office. The treatment shall be made available only for individuals with mental disorders, neurological disorders, and substance abuse and other forms of addiction.

To guarantee that the treatment conditions and care patients comply with existing regulations, the proposal stipulates that every community-based mental health facility in the city shall be inspected frequently by authorities.

A mental health facilitators program shall also be established to train people outside the field of mental health with regard to giving basic help and developing referral skills to involve more people in the city’s campaign to address the mental health needs of the community.

The ordinance also proposes the decentralization of hospitals that are providing mental health care services by capacitating the professionals deployed in the community. They shall be mobilized to promote social participation and recovery-based approaches through continuous human interaction.

The proposed ordinance was approved on first reading and referred to the concerned committee. – Jordan G. Habbiling