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House approves mental health bill on final reading

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives on Monday, November 20, approved on 3rd and final reading a law that would establish a national mental health policy in the Philippines. 

The vote was made as Congress resumed session after a 5-week break. 223 lawmakers voted in favor of the measure, while none voted against it or abstained. 

"Akbayan welcomes the passage of the Mental Health Bill on 3rd and final reading. This brings us a step closer toward tackling mental health issues not just as individuals, but as a society, given that social conditions significantly contribute to a person’s mental health and well-being," said Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, among the advocates of the bill. 

The Senate had earlier passed its version of the measure in May 2017. 

House Bill Number 6452 or the “Comprehensive Mental Health Act” also states that “every person” should have access to “the best available” mental health care.

The bill’s sponsors in the House include Quezon 4th District Representative Helen Tan, Antipolo City 1st District Representative Cristina Roa-Puno, Marikina City 2nd District Representative Romero Quimbo, and Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles.

Now that it has passed both houses of Congress, differences in the two versions, if any, will be reconciled by a conference committee. Both houses will then approve the consolidated version, which will be forwarded to the President, who can either sign the bill into law or veto it.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, sponsor of the bill's Senate version, said she would work with her colleagues from the House to make sure the measure is signed in law before the year ends.

"I laud the House of Representatives for passing on 3rd and final reading its version of the Mental Health Bill. After being one of the few countries left without a mental health policy, the [Philippines] is now one step closer in implementing a policy that will respond to the mental health needs of Filipinos. Once enacted into law, the measure will integrate mental health into the general healthcare system," Hontiveros said. 

"The burden of mental health illness is real. But so is hope. With the eventual passage of the Mental Health Bill, help is finally on its way," she added  Rappler.com