BasicNeeds-Ghana, a mental health and development advocacy organisation, is advocating the inclusion of drugs for mentally ill patients onto the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
Currently, drugs used for specific healthcare intervention programmes including mental health are excluded from the medicine list under the scheme.
Lilian Kuutiero, Project Coordinator at BasicNeeds-Ghana who decried the present situation, noted that it impeded effective recovery and treatment processes for the mentally challenged.
“Unfortunately, their drugs are not covered by the NHIS and the COVID-19 outbreak has made the situation even worst. Drugs which used to cost GH¢20 is now selling for about GH¢100 because there is shortage of their drugs in the system and most patients are relapsing.
The incorporation of their drugs on the NHIS is critical to address pre-existing conditions that cause them to react and also help reduce the burden on families who abandon these people because they cannot afford the drugs,” she said.
Ms Kuutiero was speaking in an interview with the Ghanaian Times on the sidelines of an orientation workshop held for healthcare providers in the region under the “Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for mental health project.”
With funding from AmplifyChange, the 24-month project aims at equipping care givers and persons with mental illness with requisite knowledge to promote access to SRHR services.
Expected to end in December 2023, the project is being implemented in three regions including the Greater Accra, Upper West and Upper East regions, targeting persons with mental conditions, healthcare providers, civil society organisations and other stakeholders working to promote SRHR.
Ms Kuutiero urged government to show much commitment in implementing policies developed for SRHR while “we make health centres friendlier so that people with mental illness don’t feel antagonised and stigmatised when accessing these services.”
A Deputy Director Nursing in Reproductive and Child Health of the Greater Accra Regional Health Directorate, Madam Diana Bona said women suffering mental conditions equally enjoy sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) as all others, and must not be discriminated against.
She particularly encouraged men who impregnate mentally challenged women to take responsibility for the act and not shy away from it.
“We need to cease stigmatising people with mental illness so that if someone sleeps with a mentally challenged person and gets her pregnant, the man should be able to boldly accept the pregnancy rather than shying away and leaving them to their fate.”
“When we abandon them, we do not only expose the mother and unborn child to avoidable risks but they end up becoming a burden to family, health care providers and the state,” she said.
Madam Bona said the Ghana Health Service (GHS) had developed policies, built capacity of service providers and improved health infrastructure among others to enable all persons including those with mental illness to access SRHR services.
“Most of our service providers have been taken through quality customer care and there is that awareness that everyone who walks into our facilities must enjoy the same privileges,” she said.
She encouraged persons who are mentally challenged to “freely to walk to any health facility for SRHR services,” expressing the need for collaborative efforts “between mental and general health”to increase family planning and contraceptive methods to such groups.
BY ABIGAIL ANNOH