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The Israel Medical Association (IMA) has called on the public to protest the proposed reform of psychiatric services that will mean the transfer of responsibility from the Health Ministry to the health funds. This change was due to be implemented on January 1, but it was postponed due to the lack of a Knesset bill to regulate the transfer and set down the responsibilities of the insurers.
Opponents charge that the reform will especially hurt the elderly, children and teenagers and people of all ages who live in the North and South and are exposed to terrorists and rockets.
The IMA held an emergency meeting in Tel Aviv on Monday of association officials and psychiatric clinic directors to warn about the upcoming meeting Sunday of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation that is due to approve the wording of the bill. The opponents of the reform claim that it will lead to the closing of mental health centers, especially in the periphery, and "wipe out" the ambulatory psychiatric service network.
According to IMA chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar and other opponents of the reform, the health funds have the capacity to provide only about a quarter of the mental health services they will need to when the reform begins. About 2.6 million patient visits for psychiatric and psychological care are expected next year, when the health funds today have the infrastructure for only 550,000. If state mental health stations and clinics - which currently handle 750,000 patient visits a year - are closed, there will be no alternative to them in the health funds, the doctors added. The result will be "a collapse" of community-based mental health services, they said.
The IMA said it could not presently resort to action in the courts to halt the reform, as the High Court of Justice does not intervene against proposed legislation.
Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri has said that even if errors were made in implementing the reform, the process must be launched, and a committee will supervise the process to make mid-course corrections. The aim of the reform is to minimize the stigma of mental health care and treat psychiatric problems like any physical condition.