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Angara wants Mental Health Act amended to add provision on immediate benefits

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Senator Sonny Angara filed on Monday a bill seeking to amend the Mental Health Act to add a section on giving immediate benefits and/or financial assistance to those sustaining temporary or permanent mental disability while on duty.

Under the proposed bill, service users or those availing of mental health care services will be assured of their right to “immediately receive compensation benefits and/or any special financial assistance” that he or she may be entitled to under existing laws, “should the service user sustain temporary or permanent mental disability while in the performance of duty or by reason of his or her office or position.” 

Angara cited the case of former Army Corporal Winston Ragos who suffered from schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder according to his sister. Ragos, who was unarmed, was shot dead by a police officer last month near a checkpoint in Barangay Pasong Putik in Quezon City after the former soldier allegedly shouted at cops.

Under the Mental Health Act, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is tasked to provide insurance packages to patients with mental health conditions and ensure can get the medicines they need.

Ragos reportedly was not able to seek medical help and replenish his prescriptions due to the enhanced community quarantine imposed in Luzon to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

“People with mental health conditions should have access to affordable essential health services, at all levels of the national healthcare system,” Angara said.  

“However, while we do have the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), VMMC and the Mental Health Act in play to help veterans who need support, the unfortunate incident involving Corporal Ragos emphasizes a need to revisit, reexamine, and realign mental health services,” he said.

“As the case of Corporal Ragos has shown us, some of the existing policies and guidelines need updates to better serve our men in uniform,” the senator added.

“Hopefully, a vaccine against COVID-19 is developed or the lockdown restrictions are eased already because the sooner we can get our lives back to normal—when people are able to go out again and see their friends and families, this will be very beneficial to their mental and emotional health,” Angara said. —KG, GMA News

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