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The Mental Health Care Bill, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - 00:00 -- BY JOHN CHIGITI

Many of us know a family member somewhere who is living with a mental disability. I know one. Have you ever wondered what runs in their minds? Do you ever sit and wonder how it would be like if your spouse suddenly lost it?

Would that suddenly mark the end of the road for your marriage? Many people with mental disabilities really suffer a lot of injustices and challenges.

They are more often than not victims of violations of their human rights. They do not get appropriate medical attention. Some medical cover providers do not want anything to do with these innocent souls. They live in deplorable conditions.

Well we have all the reasons to smile since The Mental Health Care Bill, 2012 an Act of Parliament to provide for the care, treatment and rehabilitation of persons with mental illness, to provide for the procedures for admission, treatment and general management of persons with mental illness amongst other issues is in the offing.

Under the Bill, “mental health” means a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community;

“Mental illness” includes any disorder, impairment, disability or handicap of the mind, including mental impairment as a result of alcohol, drugs or substance abuse;

The Bill provides for mental health care which shall be of the highest quality possible and shall be provided in a manner that preserves the dignity of the person with mental illness.

If the Bill becomes an Act of parliament, then every person shall be entitled, if the person so wishes, to medical insurance covering treatment to a person suffering from mental illness and no insurance company shall make any insurance policy providing insurance against sickness which excludes or restricts the treatment of persons suffering from mental illness.

A person with mental illness shall not be discriminated against or subject to unfair treatment in obtaining adequate health insurance for the care and treatment of physical and mental health problems from public and private health insurance providers.

Any person or insurance company that contravenes the provisions of this section commits an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand shillings, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or both.

A person shall not be discriminated against on the ground that he or she is suffering from mental illness. Every person with mental illness shall have the right to exercise all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights accorded to every person by the Constitution and any other written law in force in Kenya. To me this means that persons with a mental illness shall have the right to vote.

Where a person is, by reason of his or her mental illness, deemed by law not to have legal capacity, such person shall be entitled to the appointment of a personal representative to manage or conduct his or her affairs.

A “representative” means spouse, next of kin, partner, parent or guardian of the person with mental illness having legal capacity to make decisions on behalf of the person with mental illness.

Every person with mental illness is entitled to access to full information regarding his or her mental and other health status, clinical records and other related information maintained by mental health care facilities and service providers in accordance with Article 35 of the Constitution, subject to restrictions necessary to prevent serious harm to the health of the person with mental illness or to the public.

Every person, body, organisation or mental health care facility providing care and treatment to a person with mental illness shall take steps to ensure that persons with mental illness are protected from exploitation, abuse, or any cruel and degrading treatment.

A person who witnesses any form of abuse against a person with mental illness shall report the incident immediately to the police, the Board or any other competent authority.

The Act shall give the families and carers of persons with mental illness have the right to access information regarding the medical status and treatment plans of a person with mental illness;

The to receive support and services from the relevant government agencies in taking care of person with mental illness; The right to be involved in the formulation of mental health policy, legislation and plans;

And the right to be involved in the legal processes including decision-making, reviews and appeals relating to a person with mental illness.

A person with mental illness has a right to participate in the formulation of his or her treatment plans  or through his or her representative, spouse, next of kin, partner, associate, parent or guardian shall be entitled to participate in the formulation of treatment plans.

This legislation promotes the rights of this special group or members of our society and it embraces the national values and principles of democracy. It will be great vehicle for the protection of the rights of the mentally challenged and the family.