Mental Health Authority unhappy with lip service to problems

Accra, The Mental Health Authority says it is in a quandary on whether or not to proceed with the passage of the Legislative Instrument (LI) to the Mental Health Act 846.

This is because the Levy to provide resources for the Fund to be established under the Act, is yet to be stipulated.

Dr Akwasi Osei, the Chief Executive Officer of the Authority, said passing the LI without the levy was not the best as the Ministry of Finance would have no urgency in establishing the levy to feed the fund.

He was speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting on the passage of the LI, organised by the MHA and the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG).

The Authority, he said, needed about GHC130 million, in the next three years, to run the three main psychiatric hospitals; establish psychiatric wings in the regional hospitals; provide mental healthcare in district hospitals; train mental health personnel among other reforms.

The levy, he said, was expected to provide a sustainable means of funds for these reforms.

He explained that the Authority had had discussions with the Parliamentary Select Committee on Subsidiary Legislation in the last Parliament last year, and it was advised to discuss the establishment of the LI with the Ministry of Finance in order for it to be established and incorporated into the LI to be passed.

However, he said, the Select Committee, in a meeting held on Tuesday, September 19, argued that the levy should not be included in the LI for passage as the law mandated the Ministry of Finance to establish the levy, and that the LI should be passed without the levy, while the Authority lobbied the Ministry to establish it.

Our fear is that if we pass the LI, nobody will be mandated to establish the levy, and without the levy, Mental Health would remain as it had been, which was not good enough he stated.

He said in order to improve healthcare in Ghana, which was currently bogged down with challenges, including its highly centralised nature, human rights abuses, under-resourcing and stigmatisation, there was the need for a source of funding, which could be provided by the levy.

He maintained that there was a need for an instrument in law to be put in place to compel all everyone to do the right thing for the mentally ill, who were recognised as vulnerable, adding that, without the levy it would be difficult for the Authority to focus on its core work as it would have to be begging for funds.

From the advice that the Select Committee was giving, we should go ahead and pass it and thereafter lobby the ministry to establish the levy, which is to me, a mammoth task, he said.

I would have preferred that we established the levy and made it part of the LI but they are the very people who will pass it and they say if you put it in the LI, it’s likely to be expunged before they pass it so it becomes a difficult situation for us; it becomes quite frustrating.

I have stood my grounds never to get frustrated but I’m getting to a point where I’m saying it’s getting frustrating, he bemoaned.

Professor Joseph Bediako Asare, an international consultant in Psychiatry, who chaired the meeting, urged participants to come up with strategies to help move the passage of the LI and establishment of the levy forward; as well as alternative ways to fund mental health across the country.

He bemoaned the lack of attention to mental health in Ghana, saying that Ghanaians only pad lip service to mental health.

The managers at the top don’t put any priority whatsoever on mental health he said, adding that, they also had to think about how to build society’s conscience to see mental health as an important part of health service delivery.

Dr James Duah, Deputy Executive Director of CHAG, said mental health conditions affected many Ghanaians and ought to be given the needed attention, as done for other diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS.

A study conducted in Ghana with a sample size of 10,000, showed that 41 per cent of Ghanaians suffered from one mental condition or the other thus the need to prioritise mental healthcare, he said.

The way ailments like malaria, maternal and child health and other conditions are funded, is the same way mental health should be funded. Yes, if we have a levy it will go a long way to support delivery of mental health services.

Source: Ghana News Agency