Speaking at a conference in Haifa on Tuesday, Israeli Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman announced that a long awaited reform of the mental health system would be enacted.

The reform, recommended over two decades ago, will come into effect on the first of July, and will give a reported NIS 420 million boost to treating mental health cases.

It will also modernize the manner in which mental health is addressed by the health system. The bureaucratic changes, among other benefits, are slated to “reduce the stigma of mental health,” said the spokesperson of Enosh, an Israeli mental health NGO, to Tazpit News Agency.

Today, individuals seeking mental health treatment go to special clinics outside the “kupat holim” health network (HMO).

For all other needs they would turn to a family doctor first, “creating a stigma around mental health issues,” the spokesperson said. The reform would ensure that patients are treated under the HMO system.

The Yehuda Abarbanel Mental Health Center, the largest in Israel, also told Tazpit that they were in favor of the reform, saying it would “cut waiting times significantly for patients.”

When asked if the Center received all the funding it requested from the Ministry of Health, the official replied, “not always, but most of the time.”

At the conference at the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Litzman also announced an overhaul of the health system in the country in general.

The deputy minister, who was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany, said that he would, in particular, focus on overcrowded emergency rooms and boosting the number of ER doctors available.

Litzman has de-facto control of the ministry, and is only referred to as a deputy for ideological reasons.

By Zack Pyzer
Tazpit News Agency