Parliament: New measures to boost mental health in the community

A Class C ward at the Institute for Mental Health (IMH).
A Class C ward at the Institute for Mental Health (IMH).PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Frontline staff from government agencies, including the police, will be trained to spot and respond to mental health cases in the community.

Social service and community agencies will also receive basic training to identify and respond to people with mental health issues, and refer them to the Agency for Integrated Care for help.

These are among the objectives to boost community mental health care that wereannounced in Parliament on Thursday (March 9) by Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor.

"We will expand mental health and dementia services in polyclinics, to make care more accessible," she said. "Our target is for one in two polyclinics to implement mental health clinics by 2021."

Such clinics would play a role in managing patients with dementia, depression, anxiety and insomnia, to name a few mental health illnesses. Singapore has 18 polyclinics, with at least six more to be built in the next few years.

The number of community outreach teams, whose main role is to educate the public and reach out to vulnerable individuals, will be beefed up from the current 18 to 50 by 2021, said Dr Khor.

More allied health community intervention teams are also on the cards. These teams, which are staffed by professionals such as psychologists and occupational therapists, will be increased to 18 by 2021, up from the current 14.

They help care for mental health patients, for example, by checking on them at home and making sure they are taking medication on time.

The Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Singapore's main psychiatric hospital, will also care for more discharged patients. Its "after care" support will be widened in the next five years. Dr Khor said this will allow more IMH patients to "be supported in the post-discharge period and transit well back home".

She added: "IMH expects to be able to support an additional 3,000 patients over the next five years, on top of the current 8,000 patients."