The Senate is set to pass the National Health Bill for the third reading in November 2020, even as the Federal Government has been charged to set up a mental health desk at the Federal Ministry of Health to regulate and coordinate all levels of mental health care in the country.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe who dropped the hint during a virtual summit held by the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria in commemoration of this year's World Mental Health Day, said the bill is designed to establish a framework for policy formulation and address sharp practices in the management of mental illnesses in the country.
Oloriegbe who is representing Kwara Central district in the 9th National Assembly gave an assurance that the bill which earlier passed through the second reading, will be returned to the Senate for the third reading and by November it will be passed by the Senate.
"With the pandemic, we have all seen the consequences on the social and economic and that the coping mechanism by people that have broken down. We have been privileged be to support the processing and passage of a law that will guide and be a policy framework for sustainable and effective activities or actions towards addressing mental health disorders.
"Before we came in, there has been some attempt there was a law that was in the draft stage. We looked at that and did some amendments and presented it. While we were doing that, we saw that the previous effort did not even make attempt to repeal the Lunacy Act which is the current existing law in Nigerian legal books as far as mental health is concerned.
"We are in the final stage and today may be the day we are submitting it back to the Senate for them to schedule it for the third reading. We have finalised every work on it, we have a clean draft and we hope by November, hopefully, when we go back to plenary before the middle of the month, it will be passed by the Senate."
Further, Oloriegbe said the bill provides in several parts for the rights of persons with mental disorders to be protected. He said it also provides for various forms of management and treatments for mental health at various levels starting from primary to secondary and tertiary.
"For the first time we are establishing a committee that will be able to do a review of people that require involuntary treatment for mental disorders, and for them to be taken up.
"It is also going to address the issue of the various quacks and illegal forms of treatment. We hope when it comes to fruition, the situation of people with mental illnesses will be better through realistic and sustainable implementation involving all the practitioners' society groups, particularly civil society, and partners.
Meanwhile, the Federal government has been called upon to set up a mental health desk at the Federal Ministry of Health to regulate and coordinate all levels of mental health care in the country.
Making the call during the virtual summit, themed: Psychosocial Impact of the Pandemic and Relevance of Mental Health Discussions Post COVID-19, a professor of psychiatry at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital Prof Lateef Taiwo Sheikh, also called for the immediate signing into law of the Mental Health Bill.
Sheikh, who is President of the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria, lamented that mental health gets less than three per cent of the Federal health budget regretted that Nigeria is still operating under the colonial Lunacy law.
"For realistic and effective implementation of National Mental Health service delivery for Nigeria, the successful take-off of the department of mental health is required for effective coordination of mental health programmes.
"We need to develop a road map for implementation of the law, support the Federal Ministry of Health with delivery at all levels of healthcare using the existing health system. There should also be the introduction of community mental care delivery within the existing health system.
Sheikh called on the government to invest more in mental health care in order to provide greater access to Nigerians.
"Mental health has come a long way in Nigeria but the country was yet to achieve universal access to effective, qualitative and affordable mental care. The signing of a mental health bill into law is a critical investment in mental health in Nigeria that will guarantee access to effective, compassionate and quality mental healthcare care that we desire," he avowed.