The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill creating mental health and well-being offices in schools divisions nationwide on second reading.
House Bill 6574 or the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act mandates the hiring of mental health professionals and their deployment to public elementary and secondary school, vocational institution and offices in the central, regional, and schools division governance levels of the Department of Education (DepEd) within five years from the effectivity of the measure.
Likewise, House Bill 6574 mandates the establishment at the schools division level of a mental health and well-being office, to be headed by a qualified Mental Health Professional with the position of Guidance Services Specialist V or Salary Grade 24.
In addition, the measure provides for the hiring of mental health professionals with salary grade not lower than Salary Grade 16, including guidance associates and psychometricians at the entry level of Salary Grade 11.
“This is to promote the emotional, psychological and mental health well-being of learners and teachers so as to enhance their classroom and learning preparedness , including learners identified as children in conflict with the law, students at risk of dropping out, learner-victims of Violence Against Women and Children, and learners-victims of other related forms of child abuse and criminal acts,” the Committee Report on the measure read.
Further, the bill allows public schools to hire graduates with relevant backgrounds in psychology or similar fields, who may not yet qualify as mental health professionals, to provide school-based mental health services, notwithstanding the provisions of the Guidance and Counseling Act of 2004, provided that they undergo training on capacity building as determined by the DepEd and supervised by qualified mental health professionals within the schools division level in their provision of mental health services.
This is provided, further, that they meet the relevant qualifications and are licensed as mental health professionals within three years from their date of hiring.
House Bill 6574 also grants mental health professionals the rights and privileges provided for in the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers, Mental Health Act and other pertinent laws, as well as creates a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) on the Basic Education Mental Health Program to monitor and oversee the implementation of the provisions of this Act.
The oversight panel will be composed of five members each from the Senate and from the House of Representatives, respectively, including a member of the minority from each chamber, to be chaired jointly by the chairpersons of the Committees on Basic Education of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. — BM, GMA Integrated News
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