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Public Health Minister ramps up mental health hotline services

Photo courtesy of The Nation

To combat the intertwined issues of mental health and narcotics abuse, Public Health Minister Somsak Thepsutin has directed agencies to ramp up hotline services for greater efficiency.

During his visit to the Department of Mental Health today, Somsak emphasised the urgent need for improvement.

“Around 40% of psychiatric patients suffer due to narcotics.”

The health minister highlighted the critical overlap between these issues. He stressed the necessity of ensuring that the 5 million psychiatric patients across the country have access to proper treatment.

Somsak instructed the department to reassess its budget allocation to facilitate this access. He also urged the department to expedite the approval of a legal amendment allowing budget requests from the narcotics control fund for patient treatment. The amendment is anticipated to be approved within 30 days.

In a shocking test of the current system, Somsak had his team simulate an emergency call involving a psychiatric patient under the influence of narcotics. The results were alarming: hotlines lacked clear guidelines and often redirected callers to other agencies like the police or hospitals.

Somsak insisted that police should be directly involved in handling such cases.

“The integration of a hotline for psychiatric patients suffering from narcotics needs urgent improvement.”

He further urged hotlines struggling with budget constraints to seek additional funds or consider merging with other services to enhance efficiency.

“The hotline test proved that theory alone is not useful. It also needs practice.”

Somsak announced that the Department of Mental Health is now handling mental health and narcotics cases at a 60:40 ratio and that the budget should be ample to address this workload.

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Additionally, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin demanded a plan to increase the number of medical staff within two weeks to counteract the impending wave of retirements. The Public Health Ministry’s permanent secretary has already devised a strategy to meet this directive, reported The Nation.

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