LEGISLATION & POLICY PROGRAM
CHRONOLOGY OF ADOPTION OF
MENTAL HEALTH LAW IN ARMENIA
November,1998 - Mental Health Foundation (MHF)
formed a multi-professional team of experts (Arman Vardanyan, Nikolay
Arustamyan, Gagik Manukyan), which elaborated the first draft of
Mental Health Law in Armenia.
January, 1999 - MHF presented this draft to Minister
of Health of Armenia Dr Hayk Nikoghossyan.
January, 1999 - Hayastani Hanrapetutyun daily,
main official newspaper of Armenia, published large interview with
Chair of the Board of MHF devoted to necessity of legislative reform
May, 1999 - Ministry of Health respond officially
recognizing the necessity of adoption of mental health law and accepting
the law concept elaborated by MHF. Ministry made comments and suggestions
to draft Law.
May 1999 - due to forthcoming Parliamentary elections
on May 30 and possible changes in Government activities were frozen
May 1999 - Parliamentary elections
June 1999 - round table discussion with participation
of newly elected chairman of Health Sub-commission of National Assembly
of Armenia Ghukas Ulikhanyan, Member of Parliament Artak Grigoryan,
and representatives of Ministry of Health - Head of Department of
Specialized Health Care Armen Sarkissyan, Chief Psychiatrist Samvel
Soukiassyan. It is agreed that Ministry will form joint Commission
to elaborate final draft of the Law.
September-November 1999 - Ministry elaborates
Armenia's Health Policy and postpone mental health law committee
December 1999 - During his meeting with leading
national and international NGO-s working in health sector in Armenia,
Minister Nikoghosyan mentioned the process of creation of national
draft of Mental Health Law as a good example of collaboration between
authorities and NGO-s in Armenia. He also declared June 2000 as
a deadline for the Government to enter the Armenian Parliament with
January 2000 - Commission for Mental Health Legislation
of Ministry of Health of Armenia was created (Samvel Sukiassyan,
Arman Vardanyan, Maruqe Eghyan, Alexey Hayrapetyan and Samvel Chshmarityan).
January - March 2000 - Commission accepts MHF
draft as a basis and enriching it with draft of Alexey Hayrapetyan,
elaborated on it.
March 2000 - By request of Ministry of Health,
MHF published Mental Health Law draft and presented it for public
March 2000 - new Minister of Health appointed
September 2000 - Board of Ministry of Health
held a special meeting on mental health. Minister of Health Ararat
Mkrtchyan declared that the adoption of the Mental Health Law is
not priority task for his team until the general Public Health Law
will be adopted
October 2000 - MHF invites meeting of civil society
groups to discuss the situation. The decision has been taken to
freeze lobbying and wait until the Public Health Law will be adopted.
April 2001 - Ministry of Health representatives
reiterate their position regarding the priority of the Public Health
Law after failure of several attempts to develop Public Health Law
November 2001 - Ministry of Health representatives
reiterate their position regarding the priority of the Public Health
Law after series of scandalous resignations in the Ministry of Health,
connected with Public Health Law
October 2001 - As a response to that position,
MHF Board decided to mobilize civil society groups to lobby for
adoption of the law.
December 2001 - MHF organized an Open space event
with the group of 120 activists, including users of mental health
services, their family members, professionals and other stakeholders.
The Open space call on the authorities to adopt mental health law.
February - June 2002 MHF team upgrade the existing
draft with respect to current legislative trends and widely discuss
it with different stakeholders groups.
June 2002 - MHF initiated creation of Pro Mental
Health Coalition with 25 civil society organizations and mobilization
June-October 2002 - Coalition presented draft
law to the National Assembly's Health, Social Welfare and Employment
2002 - principal changes in the position of Ministry
of Health. It decided to take the initiative in the process of law
adoption. The law draft is discussed with different ministries and
after amendments it is presented to WHO expertise. After that, serious
amendments and additions are made.
May 2003 - Parliamentary elections
June 2003 - new Minister of Health appointed
June - October 2003 - Coalition continue its
efforts, aimed at adoption of new law
August 2003 - Law draft presented by the Ministry
of Health is approved by the Government of Armenia.
October 2003 - Health, Social and Environmental
Issues Committee gives positive opinion for the draft Law and it
is approved for a first reading
2003-2004 - Expertise by Council of Europe and
2004 - after amendments and additions, draft
law is debated at the Health, Social and Environmental Issues Committee,
during which, by proposal of MAK faction of the Parliament the draft
law is renamed as "Law on Psychiatric Aid"
May 2004 - "Law on Psychiatric Aid"
September 2004 - Law came into force
1991 when Armenia becomes independent the Parliament of Armenia adopts
few laws on public health and health care. Unfortunately, no law on
mental health was adopted.
Now the field of mental health in Armenia is still regulated by the
order of Minister of Health of USSRThis is the only document, which
partially regulated the patient's rights, involuntary treatment and
other mental health issues. At the same time this order has no strength
In December of 1997 Board of Mental Health Foundation declares 1998
the Year of Law for our country. We decide to emphasis our activities
in 1998 on lobbying the idea of new legislation for Armenia and preparation
of draft of national law.
In May 1998 we organized round-table on legislation in mental health
which lightened the problems in that field and "opened doors"
for further discussions. Round table was held at the Conference Hall
of the governmental Hrazdan Hotel in Yerevan. It was organized by the
Mental Health Foundation and US-based Mental Disability Rights International
(MDRI). This was the first special event devoted to mental health legislation
issues in Armenia. Presentation were made by MDRI executive director
Eric Rosenthal on "International Human Rights Standards, Experienced
in Central and Eastern Asia", Michigan Advocacy Service Director
Elizabeth Bauer on "Involvement of Family Groups and Users in Advocacy",
Dr. Arman Vardanyan on "Informed Consent and Involuntary Treatment
in Legislation" and others.
Around 60 participants representing all specters of mental health professionals,
international and local NGO-s participated in round-table. Heads of
World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, MSF-B, American Bar Association
missions and others made discussion useful and productive.
Due to active discussion the round-table expanded to two and half-hour
more than scheduled.
The common opinion was that Armenia needs new mental health law and
this will be the first step on the long path of reforming mental health
system in our country.
The most serious problem of the field of mental health in Armenia is
lack of proper legislation - this was the common conclusion of the participants.
Mental Health Law
In September 1998 we started preparation of mental
health law draft and publication of series of materials on mental health
legislation. We also devoted the theme of World Mental Health Day 1998
- Mental Health and Human Rights - to raise public awareness on legislative
issues in mental health. Multi professional team of Armenian Mental
Health Foundation started the preparation of mental health law draft.
Team closely collaborates with those who were interested in creation
of the national legislation. In order to involve more people in the
process, two more round-tables were organized in 1998. Both were held
at the Conference Hall of the governmental Hrazdan Hotel in Yerevan.
At the first one, on October 23, were members of Parliament of Armenia,
representatives of Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Care and Ministry
of Education, WHO, UN agencies, international NGO-s participated, law
consultants Gagik Manoukyan and Nicolay Arustamyan presented Mental
Health Law concept. Law consultant from Georgetown University Karen
Raye presented paper on mental health legislation of State of Massachusetts,
On November 5 we have held second round-table discussion. More specific
discussion in working atmosphere with about 60 participants from main
cities of Armenia participated in that event. American Bar Association
representative Gahmk Markarian and Mental Disability Rights International
director Eric Rosenthal chaired the sessions. The active discussions
were at the end of each round table, which lightened different important
sides of new legislation. At the same time we have started series of
publication of materials on mental health legislation (see Publications
chapter). These were first publications in Armenian in the field of
mental health legislation. Brochures were disseminated free of charge.
Such materials disseminated among mental health professionals, lawyers,
members of family groups and (ex-)users, representatives of governmental
and non-governmental organizations allowed them to get acquainted with
other country experience and participate in discussion. Later, we published
the series Human Rights in Mental Health. In total six brochures with
all basic international standards, ethical documents, legislative acts
of seven different countries were published. Round tables helped the
working group take into consideration all existing opinions on national
legislation and work more effectively. By the end of 1998 draft of national
legislation was ready.
In January 1999 Dr. Arman Vardanyan has presented the draft of national
legislation to Minister of Health of Republic of Armenia Dr. Hayk Nikoghossyan
during their meeting. At the end of the month main national daily newspaper
of Armenia- Hayastani Hanrapetutyun published a large interview with
Dr. Arman Vardanyan devoted to legislative reform.
In early May we received the official resolution of Ministry of Health
of Armenia on draft of law. Although there were number of suggestions,
in general Ministry of Health recognized the necessity of adoption of
mental health law and accepts the law concept and the basic articles
as they were suggested by the working group, including observation of
fundamental human rights for people with mental disability, involvement
of judges as a third party, special procedure for involuntary admissions,
complaint procedures, monitoring of human rights by advocacy NGO-s etc.
Because of forthcoming Parliament elections on May 30 and possible changes
in Government the process suspended until new Parliament and new Government
In June 1999 we have organized "Legislation in Mental Health"
discussion. Member of Parliament of Armenia, newly elected chairman
of Health Sub-commission of National Assembly of Armenia Ghukas Ulikhanyan
and representatives of Ministry of Health actively participated in round
table. Dr. Ulikhanyan, M. P. promised to support the legislative activities
of Mental Health Foundation. Participants were representing all specters
of mental health: managers and professionals, university professors,
national NGO-s. Exchange of ideas on specific articles of the law shows
that the approaches around the basic definitions are shared. Discussion
on some of articles led to acceptable compromises. Final version of
law draft of Law of Psychiatric Care of Armenia was worked out.
On December 1999 during his meeting with leading national and international
NGO-s working in Armenia, Minister Nikoghosyan mentioned the process
of creation of national draft of law on mental health as a good example
of collaboration between authorities and NGO-s in Armenia. He also declared
June 2000 as a deadline for the Government to enter the Armenian Parliament
with the draft. On January 2000 Commission for Mental Health Legislation
of Ministry of Health of Armenia was created. Among five members of
Commission four were governmental agencies officials and one - representative
of Mental Health Foundation - from non-governmental sector. Commission
presents draft for public discussion.
On September 2000 Board of Ministry of Health held a special meeting
on mental health. Minister of Health of Armenia Dr. Ararat Mkrtchyan
said that the purpose of the Board is to outline priorities in the field
of mental health. For the first time in 15 years Ministry of Health
paid attention to mental health on a highest level. Armenian Mental
Health Foundation was the only NGO represented at the Board of Ministry
of Health meeting. Board also prioritized legislation as a priority
in the field.
Three years we were implementing different projects which targeted one
point - adoption of national legislation in the field of mental health
in Armenia. We started at the point when we were alone facing the wall
of misunderstanding. But we prepared draft of national law, we published
series of brochures, we raise the awareness on legislative issue. During
those years Minister of Health has changed four times, Ministry was
united and separated again, Armenia had new President and Armenian Parliament
was reelected. It was a time when we were alone in lobbying of that
idea. It was a time when we convinced others to stand with us. We kept
the initiative. Although there is still work to do, we already succeed.
For the first time, the Government promised to enter the Parliament
with legislative initiative under demand of NGO sector.