Mental health LI begs for attention

June 21, 2017
Source: Rashidatu IBRAHIM/thebftonline.com/Ghana
Mental health LI begs for attention

Parliament is yet to pass the Legislative Instrument (LI) that will operationalise the Mental Health Act, 2012 (Act 846), as the Mental Health Authority eagerly awaits its passage to ensure a secured funding source.

The passage of the LI, which will allow for the implementation of the details of the Act among other things, will specify a mental health levy that will go into a fund to facilitate quality delivery of mental health services in the country.

"The final solution to the sector's woes, as we have been advocating, is that we have the Legislative Instrument that establishes the mental health levy passed. That levy, will enable us to be getting, constantly and regularly, money into the mental health fund.

But this is where the ministry of finance is dragging its feet in deciding what levy to establish for us. The Ministry of Finance is now our stumbling block," Dr. Akwasi Osei, Head of the Mental Health Authority told the B&FT.

Dr. Osei further warned that the passage of the LI without instituting the levy will only entrench the current poor state of mental health funding in the country.

His comments come on the back of similar concerns about the non-release of funds for the smooth running of psychiatric hospitals in the country this year.

According to Dr. Osei, each of the three main psychiatric hospitals in the country, and the Authority, needs about GHC 7m per anum to run smoothly.

Parliament, in 2012, passed the Mental Health Act, to bring about an integrated management of mental health in the country. The law provides for the establishment of a Mental Health Fund, "to provide financial resources for the care and management of persons suffering from mental disorders."

Successive governments have not fully met the requirements and needs of the mental health sector. Indeed, in 2016, though GH¢7million was requested by the Authority for the smooth running of mental health institutions, only GH¢216,000 was made available.

The recurring funding challenges in the mental health sector, last year, led to strikes and threats to close down facilities last year. Nurses at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital laid down their tools in October 2016, for a little over a week, to press home their demand for what they described as unfair treatment by the government of the day.

They complained of inadequate supply of medicines, and lack of basic logistics resulting in unsanitary working conditions.

To further compound the situation, mental health facilities across the country are saddled with about GH₵11m debt as a result of credit purchases over a three-year period.