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Rough Cuts | Answer to a long-asked question

We are certain that our friend, fellow migrant from Cebu Abay Melchor, will be extremely happy with this development at the Davao City Council during its session last Tuesday, January 29, 2020. Friend Melchor oversees the operation of a small fast food and coffee shop located at the corners of Palma Gil and C. Bangoy St. in front of the University of Mindanao Broadcast Center where the office and printing plant of this publication is also located.

Every time we take our mid-afternoon coffee when we report to the office he joins us and start conversations with topics ranging from personal experiences, politics, and even the fate of people suffering from mental illness apparently left unattended by their immediate relatives and…the government of course.

We can see that from the way friend Melchor talks about them and his encounter with some who passed by her niece’s store, he seems to have a soft heart for these unfortunate individuals. While most customers of the fast food and coffee shop squirm and cover their noses when a dirty, foul-smelling, often times almost naked mental case person get near the store, this friend of ours approaches the derided one and talks to him or her softly, offer something so he or she would leave.

One time when we were around, a mentally-ill man probably in his 40’s and his body barely covered with tattered clothes was crossing the road. His direction though was not towards Bay Melchor’s opened coffee shop. He told us that the person often drops by his store and that while he does not verbally ask for something like bread or piece of chicken, Melchor said he could sense that the man’s eyes seem begging. He said that the family of that mental case person could possibly be heartless because they just leave the guy to his own.

With barely half of our coffee left, our friend asked us whether there is any government facility or office tasked to round up and take care of persons like the one who just crossed the other junction of the road.

We could only think of the Davao Mental Hospital along the old Acacia section of J.P. Laurel road. So we told him about it. However, we also said that getting into the fold of the hospital may have to undergo some processes and it is not a simple walk-in thing. Moreover, we told our fellow Cebuano migrant that the institution, for certain, does not have a tracker team to hunt down unfortunate mental case persons and haul them inside the hospital.

We also informed him that there are a few private institutions for persons with mental health problems. But the cost of seeking treatment in those privately-operated facilities could be exorbitant. Thus, only the moneyed families can afford. And their relatives’ cases are mostly drug-related.

And why are we saying that friend Melchor would be happy with what transpired at the City Council session last Tuesday? It is because finally, through the initiative of third district councilor Joselle Villafuerte, an ordinance was passed authorizing the city government to establish a Mental Wellness Center in Davao. The center shall be located inside the compound of the Southern Philippines Medical Center but operated by the local government.

Titled the Mental Wellness Code of Davao City, the ordinance seeks to establish a center that will serve as facility to house persons with mental disorder without known guardians. The same code also provides for a unit in the center where counseling services will be given by professional psychiatric counselors.

In her sponsorship speech, councilor Villafuerte who is chair of the Council Committee on Health Care and Services, said the construction of the center will have an initial budget of P5 million. Once it is completed this will be provided with operating funds and personnel compliments. The Mental Wellness Center will be jointly run by the Mental Health Unit of the City Health Office (CHO) and the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO).

Well, friend Melchor, here now is the concrete answer to the question that you never forget to raise almost every time we while away whatever minutes we can afford at your coffee shop.

Nonetheless, what we think is critical insofar as the attainment of the objectives of the Mental Health Wellness Code is concerned, is the crafting of its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).

Will the IRR make it mandatory on the part of the local government to track down persons with mental illness and arbitrarily place them under the care of the center? Will the IRR require that for persons with mental case to avail of the services of the facility his or her immediate family members must be the ones to approach the center for intervention?

All these must be expressly stated in the IRR if the proponent councilor wants a meaningful implementation of her sponsored very noble ordinance. And the IRR must be crafted early enough and not allow the ordinance to linger in the Council record room for years before this (IRR) is worked out.

Remember the City’s Water Code? When was it passed and when did it have its IRR finally developed?

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