The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOH&SW) has disclosed that a shipment of US$100,000 worth of much needed mental health drugs has arrived in the country.
According to the Assistant Health Minister for Preventive Services, Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, who disclosed the news last Wednesday, the drugs will be distributed to various health facilities, where trained mental health clinicians are stationed throughout the 15 political sub-divisions of the country.
He stated that mental illness is a challenge to everyone in the country, therefore, the Ministry has taken a serious measure in implementing the mandate of the National Mental Health Policy by importing the mental health drugs.
The Asst. Health Minister stated that for some time now, many of the health facilities and clinics that are treating mental health cases have been stocked-out on the essential mental health drugs of the country.
“This gloomy [dark] scenario changed recently when the Government of Liberia responded in an unprecedented move to address the critical and dire need to procure drugs for the nation to treat Liberians most vulnerable and most in need of care.”
He added that the lack of mental health drugs and constant stock-out have been a problem that have existed for some time now and has impeded the government’s efforts to implement the aspects of the Essential package of Health Services (EPHS) which relates to accessibility to mental health services.
Nyenswah said a 2012 study conducted by Carter Center, showed that 75 percent of psychotropic drugs authorized for importation between 2008 to 2011 were for NGOs and only 13 percent came from the new essential medical list, which includes drugs that more closely align with WHO recommendations as essential mental health drugs.
Nyenswah: “This shipment of mental health drugs is the first post-conflict procurement and oversight by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.”
Meanwhile, the mental health coordinating unit is the arm of the Ministry that is directly responsible for ensuring the implementation of the mandates of the National Mental Health Policy, which sees this much needed boost to compliment mental health activates being conducted throughout the country in raising awareness and reducing stigmatization of people with mental illness.
The Mental Health Coordinating Unit is currently working with various sectors in creating mechanisms and ensuring the dissemination of relevant mental health information throughout the country and has developed a curriculum to build the capacity of general community health volunteers in identifying basic mental health symptoms at the community level, educating and making the necessary referral to the appropriate service level, as well as various categories of health workers and also training on mental health.
Only a few years ago when the National Mental Health Policy was being crafted, there were no trained mental health workforce to deal with the enormous task of treating, rehabilitating and reintegrating people with mental health conditions back into their natural environments but today, through the support and partnership of Carter Center Mental Health Program, 100 trained mental health clinicians have been added to the workforce and the sixth cohort of 23 mental health clinicians is underway at the Phebe Hospital in Bong County.