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 in Armenia.
- 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 creation
- 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 the draft.
- 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 discussion.
- 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 of supporters
- June-October 2002 - Coalition presented draft law to the National Assembly's Health, Social Welfare and Employment Committee.
- 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 OSCE
- 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" is adopted
- September 2004 - Law came into force
Since 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 of law.
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, USA.
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 was formed.
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.