General Health Law Reform to Prioritize Mental Health
Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies approved changes to the General Law of Health pertaining to mental health and addiction. The law also aims to eliminate psychiatric hospitals and standardize the rules to intern psychiatric patients in care centers.
The reform highlights that mental health and the prevention of addictions will be given the same importance as other health matters in accordance with the Mexican Constitution and international human rights treaties. It also states that no patient should be subjected to isolation measures, coercive containment or any treatment is classified as cruel, inhuman or degrading.
In the case of children and adolescents, doctors will have an obligation to implement measures that allow them to assess the different types of treatment and identify which are best for their wellbeing. Morena legislator Agustín Hernández said that the new model is expected to prioritize primary care for mental health conditions. “This reform enables the creation of a comprehensive network of services,” said Hernández.
The reform, according to the Human Rights Commission of Mexico City (CDHCM), lays the foundations to establish mental health and addiction prevention as priority axes within public health. According to the CDHCM, one of the most significant aspects of the initiative is that hospitalization for mental health and addiction care must be voluntary, with prior informed consent and prioritizing community options.
The CDHCM calls for this reform to be the beginning of the creation of the necessary protocols to communicate truthful and complete information about the treatment, including objectives, possible benefits and special risks of treatment and hospitalization.
The reform, however, lacks several execution aspects that would create the “comprehensive network of services” mentioned by Hernández. For example, the reform does not include the authorization of the extraordinary resources that are required to transition to this new care model, explained Animal Político. The reform also fails to address what will happen to patients currently hospitalized in the country's psychiatric hospitals.
In accordance with the approved reforms, the 33 psychiatric hospitals run by the federal Ministry of Health, which have the capacity to serve over 4,000 people, must be converted to general hospitals or outpatient centers and no more specialized hospitals in psychiatry must be built.