SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go advocated for increased funding and proper implementation of mental health programs within the Department of Health (DOH) budget during a Committee on Finance hearing.
Citing the growing mental health issues worsened by current global challenges, Go emphasized that mental health should not be overlooked, especially when many Filipinos are grappling with related issues.
The senator’s remarks came as part of a broader discussion on DOH’s proposed budget for the upcoming year.
“Hindi rin natin dapat kalimutan ang sapat na pondo para sa mental health programs lalo na sa panahon ng pandemya na marami sa ating mga kababayan ang apektado po ang mental health,” said Go.
Go also highlighted that the proposed budget for DOH has been slashed by over ten billion pesos compared to the current year. He underscored the necessity of restoring and allocating funds for various programs, including those focused on mental health.
“Mahigit sampung bilyon po ang natapyas sa proposed budget ng DOH kumpara sa taong ito. Maraming programa pa ang dapat ma-budget-an natin at maibalik, kaya umaasa tayo na madagdagan ang budget ng DOH,” he added.
Go endorsed additional funding for DOH, and urged collective action to invest more in healthcare, particularly in mental health programs.
“With that, I endorse additional funding for the Department of Health. Pagtulungan po natin ito, the more we should invest sa ating health sa panahon ngayon,” he said.
Go’s focus on mental health is consistent with his previous legislative efforts. He has co-authored and co-sponsored Senate Bill No. 2200, known as the proposed Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act.
This bill aims to provide comprehensive mental health support for the youth in the country’s basic education system, mandating both private and public schools to integrate mental health education and support services into their curriculum.
Furthermore, Go has also been pushing for the passage of his proposed SBN 1786, which seeks to mandate public higher education institutions to establish Mental Health Offices on their campuses. This aligns with his belief that mental health should receive the same level of attention and care as physical health.
Go also reiterated the need for the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to extend a more holistic support to the Filipinos in need of medical attention including in mental health.
“Last year, as chair of the Senate Health Committee, we have successfully pushed for a special provision to use the additional PhP21 billion under the 2023 national budget for the improvement of various PhilHealth packages,” Go shared.
Go cited a special provision under the PhilHealth budget for 2023 that indicates the use of the PhP21 Billion budget pertaining to benefit package improvement under the Universal Health Care Act. This includes expansion of free dialysis coverage, mental health outpatient coverage, and the implementation of the comprehensive outpatient benefit package, including free medical check-up and other increases in benefit packages.
The senator also stressed the importance of strengthening the implementation of Republic Act No. 11036 or the Philippine Mental Health Act, emphasizing that mental health should be given the same level of attention and care as physical health.
Go then highlighted the importance of Republic Act No. 11959, known as the Regional Specialty Centers Act. He principally sponsored and is one of the authors of the measure, which was signed into law by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. on August 24. The newly enacted law aims to establish specialty centers in DOH regional hospitals across the country, with mental health services as one of the specialties offered.