Extra $100m for community mental health projects: Amy Khor

PHOTO: Extra $100m for community mental health projects: Amy Khor

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) will be improving access to care for mental health patients by developing a new community-based mental health plan to support hospital-based ones.

This entails specialist-led multi-disciplinary teams being stationed in the community, so that mental health patients can visit a nearby clinic, rather than having to travel all the way to the hospital to see a psychiatrist.

Called Assessment and Shared Care Teams (ASCAT), six teams are to be set up by 2016 to manage up to 9,500 patients at any point in time, starting with north and central Singapore for 2012.

In addition, MOH will be provided more support to enable GPs to help in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate mental conditions - such as anxiety and depression - by expanding counselling and psychotherapy services in the community.

MOH will also be piloting a helpline to provide information to community organisations, such as senior activity centres and grassroots organisations, so that they can assist patients and caregivers in navigating the range of services available.

Mobile teams of mental health professionals will also provide early on-site response for potential crisis situations where intervention or closer assessment is needed, said Dr Khor.

Other initiatives include working with the Alzheimer's Disease Association to expand the reach of its Elder-sit and Home Intervention Services, and developing management plans to ensure patients adhere to their care plans.

Overall, the Health Ministry will be spending over $100 million more to support such community mental health projects

Not to neglect other hospital and institution-based services for those with more severe mental disorders, the ministry will expand the capacity of the specialised outpatient memory clinics in hospitals by about 60 per cent over the next five years, said Dr Khor.

Over the next five years, MOH will also build two new psychiatric nursing homes, one additional psychiatric rehabilitation home, and two more psychiatric sheltered homes at a cost of about $70 million.

This will increase the existing capacity of the psychiatric Immediate Long-Term Care facilities from 1,000 beds to 1,700 beds.

In conjunction with the above efforts, Dr Khor said MOH will continue promoting mental health education.

One of the programmes in place is HPB's workplace mental health promotion grant, which helps to ensure the mental wellbeing of employees and facilitate early detection and support.

From April this year, the maximum quantum of the grant will be raised from $2,000 to $5,000.

At a cost of $2.5 million, the grant is targeted to benefit 100,000 employees over the next three years, Dr Khor said.