Court orders state to finally act on mental health

After 15 years of dawdling, the state must act on mental health care reform, High Court says.

Medicine pills drugs prescription 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Medicine pills drugs prescription 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The High Court of Justice on Wednesday instructed the Health Ministry and the government in general to explain within two months why they have failed to reform mental health care during the last 15 years. The state asked the court for permission to postpone its response.
The Health Ministry has long provided inadequate budgets for psychiatric services, leading to inadequate care and long delays, forcing many patients – especially children – to seek expensive private care or go without.
A reform plan dating back to 1997 recommended that the four public health funds take over responsibility so that more money would be available and psychiatric care would be treated like all other medical care supplied by the insurers. But the Treasury balked at spending ever-rising amounts of shekels – numbering in the millions – through the health funds, and the Health Ministry has not been strong enough to persuade the more powerful Finance Ministry.
The Supreme Court had issued a restraining order in 2005 that instructed the state to act “immediately” and carry out the reform, but it did not do so.
The Health and Finance Ministries told the justices that since the last discussion in December, they had held “intensive meetings to examine all the aspects of transferring responsibility for psychiatric services to the health funds,” which were included in these discussions. But, they continued, “because of the complexity of the issues in implementing the reform,” ministry professionals say they need another month to complete the work and reach a decision.
The petition against the government had been made by Bizchut, Otzma and other public organizations demanding the reform. Otzma chairman Prof. Eli Shamir said “the government must not again fail to carry out its decision” to transfer responsibility for mental health services to the health funds. The delay has caused a heavy price in the health and lives of people suffering from mental illness, as well as on their families, he said.