The Long Road to the Right to Mental Healthcare

Reforma ribbon

Bizchut welcomes the implementation of the Mental Healthcare Reform which began on July 1, 2015 and is proud of our contribution to this achievement. The Reform, which shifts responsibility for funding and providing mental healthcare from the Ministry of Health to the Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), finally puts an end to the artificial distinction between people in need of mental healthcare and those in need of general healthcare. It also puts an end to the unacceptable state of affairs in which people in need of mental healthcare had to wait many months for appointments and guarantees their right to treatment under the law and in practice, in contrast to the situation before the Reform.  Starting now, individuals have a statutory right to receive mental health services in the community, as is the case with any other health service in Israel.

Bizchut and other civil society organizations have struggled tirelessly for over a decade, in order that this Reform, which had been promised by the government in many unexecuted government decisions, will finally be put into practice, ending the status quo of discrimination.

Legal action at the High Court of Justice, lectures, discussions and meetings, news reports, pamphlets, arguments in the Knesset, and, no less important, joint effort on the part of civil society advocates have brought us to this great moment, a dramatic change in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Many had already eulogized this idea as a failed and an irrecoverable dream, but it has become a reality.

Our struggle has resulted in more than just insurance reform. We see signs of a reform in the status of civil society organizations and activists for the rights of people with mental disabilities, and clear evidence of our ability to influence high-stakes government processes such as this one.

The statement, “Nothing about us without us,” which is a driving force for people with disabilities around the world in their struggle for equality, and which stands at the heart of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ratified by Israel in 2012) has here received substance and visibility. There is still a long way to go on the road to full equality, but our struggle for insurance reform in mental health is a prominent milestone and a source of great pride.