Has mental-health reform succeeded?

Mental health resources outside of the metropolitan areas faces implementation problems.

November 17, 2016 02:41
1 minute read.

Depressed girl gets counseling and comfort from a caring therapist. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

The 2015 reform that transferred responsibility for psychiatric treatment from the Health Ministry to the four health funds is a “failure,” according to MKs and mental health professionals who appeared in a Knesset committee on Wednesday.

A ministry representative who was present at the meeting said, however, that the “situation in fact has improved.” The reform was implemented in July 2015.

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MK Miki Zohar, chairman of the Knesset Social Equality Committee, said that a number of problems in implementation have been revealed. The main ones, he said, are in the periphery, which should have received additional funds so the reform could be carried out properly.

MK Michal Biran urged allowing people to get psychiatric or psychological treatment without a referral from the family physician because in small towns and settlements, “everybody knows everybody and patients are ashamed to go to the family doctor.”

MK Dov Henin maintained that the reform caused “harm” all over the country.

“Some treatments, such as psychological care for minors, have disappeared, and there are also longer waiting times than before. There are 370 residents in clinical psychology who can be used, but they are not being utilized by the health funds because it’s cheaper for them to hire ordinary MDs.”

MK Jamal Zahalka called for making it easier for Arab students to meet minimum requirements needed to study clinical psychology so there are more professionals who can treat patients in that sector.

“Before the reform there was a shortage of mental health professionals only in the periphery, but now it exists around the country, and has worsened in the periphery,” said Hanna Strum of the Mental Health Psychologists’ and Social Workers’ Forum.

But the Health Ministry’s Dov Bodovsky said: “Before the reform, the situation was catastrophic. Today, there are more services, including in the periphery. There are 30,000 more patients today than before the reform. The lines have shortened. But there still is a shortage of manpower, of psychiatrists, and especially for children and youth and in the Arab sector.”

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