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Mental Health Remains A Challenge In Liberia
By Prince S. Nagbe
MONROVIA, September 27 (LINA) – From all indications, it has become glaring that the issue of improving the country’s mental health sector still remains a challenge for the government as it strives to build a resilient health system following the Ebola outbreak.
One of such challenges is the lack of funding in the 2016/2017 budget of the Ministry of Health for mental healthcare passed recently by both Houses of the National Legislature, making it difficult for the Department of Mental Health to carry out its functions effectively.
With the increase in the number of mentally ill people in the country, this latest development suggests that the government’s quest to build a resilient health system in the area of mental health is still farfetched.
When contacted following the passage of the budget, the Director of the Mental Health Department, Angie Tarr-Nyankon, told the Liberia News Agency (LINA) on Monday that the lack of funding in the Ministry’s budget for mental health activities makes it difficult for the department to implement its five-year strategic plan.
“The lack of funding in the budget for the implementation of mental health activities, especially as it relates to the department’s five-year strategic plan, poses a serious setback to the improvement of the sector,” Nyankon stressed.
“This is a serious challenge not only for the Department of Mental Health but also for the government and the country as a whole,” she noted.
Nyankon pointed out that though the department has been supported by donors over the years, especially the Carter Center, it is equally important for the government to take the lead if it must succeed in reducing the growing number of people living with mental disabilities.
“Now that the budget has been passed, with nothing in it for Mental Health, it suggests that the challenge of the lack of psychotropic drugs and Wellness Units across the counties over the years still remains unresolved,” Nyankon pointed out.
The lack of money in the budget for Mental Health also suggests that the only mental health hospital in the country, the E.S. Grant Psychiatric Hospital, which is in dire need of renovation, cannot be upgraded.
It can be recalled that the Mental Health Department at the Ministry of Health prepared a five-year strategic plan aimed at improving the mental health sector of the country.
Implementation of the plan depends on the availability of resources, but with this latest development, it is now clear that the five-year mental health strategic plan is far from being a reality.
The National Legislature on Wednesday, September 21, passed the fiscal budget with the Ministry of Health carrying the lion’s share of a little over US$60 million of which nothing is stipulated for mental health.