Ministry of Health
MOH Official Urges Passage Of Mental Health Act
By Prince S. Nagbe
MONROVIA, September 1 (LINA) – The Director of Mental Health at the Ministry of Health, Angie Tarr Nyakon, is calling on the Liberian Senate to pass into law the Mental Health Act currently before that body.
“The passage of the Act will help improve the country’s mental health system that is not formally established and nearly all patients have no access to mental health medication,” Nyakon told the Liberia News Agency in Monrovia recently.
The Mental Health Act seeks to protect the civil, social and health rights of all mentally challenged persons as well as promote and regulate effective access to timely, quality mental healthcare, treatment, and rehabilitation for all mentally challenged persons, among others.
“The Act will ensure that the government supports the optimal well-being, independence and liberty of mentally challenged persons, including those who have committed crimes, within the bounds of the law,” Nyakon stressed.
She disclosed that the Act has been before the Senate Committee on Health for the past three years and is yet to be passed into law; noting, “This is one of the factors responsible for the increase in the number of persons living with mental illness in the country.”
“Psychotropic drugs are not available in the country; there are no Wellness Units in the counties; the only mental health hospital, E.S. Grant Psychiatric Hospital, can only cater to about 80 in-patients and is in dire need of renovation. These are challenges that the Act seeks to address when passed into law,” she emphasized.
The MOH official believes that the Act, when passed into law, will ensure that the issues of training for most primary care staff to provide quality service, follow-ups on patients by social workers as well as in-service training programs for caregivers are properly addressed.
“The government has trained very few Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) to conduct public awareness programs and to recognize signs of mental illness and make referrals to the appropriate health facilities; a very serious challenge that will continue to affect the sector if the Act stays at the Legislature and is not passed into law,” Yankon noted.
The Ministry of Health in 2013 submitted a Mental Health Act to the National Legislature to be passed into law in an effort to improve the mental health sector of the country that has long been under-supported and under-funded.
Since then, the Act has been in the Legislature, specifically the Senate.
For this reason, the Mental Health Unit at the Health Ministry has over the years heavily depended on donors such as the Carter Center and the World Health Organization for support.