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Proposed tiered care model for mental healthcare to allocate resources based on severity

SINGAPORE - Individuals with more severe mental health needs could soon be matched with more care, as part of a tiered care model that the Ministry of Health is considering.

This allows for more efficient allocation of resources to the mental health services based on the needs of a patient, said Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary in Parliament on Wednesday.

The proposal was among 12 recommendations to improve mental health during a public consultation involving more than 950 responses from people with mental health conditions, service providers, community agencies and other members of the public.

Dr Janil said the proposed framework matches the level of care to the degree of the mental health need, allowing for resources to be allocated based on the severity and complexity of an individual’s needs.

Most respondents supported the idea, said Dr Janil, adding that some noted that professionals should be able to carry out their duties competently, regardless of tier.

Dr Wan Rizal (Jalan Besar) had pointed out the shortage of trained mental health professionals who can provide effective treatment to those seeking help.

He said: “Due to the lack of resources, people may turn to untrained mental health practitioners or rely on self-help resources. This may not provide the same level of support and expertise as a trained one.

“This can lead to inadequate or harmful treatment, worsening the individual’s mental health and overall well-being.”

Dr Janil also responded to concerns about the provision of dental care for vulnerable groups, especially migrant workers, highlighted by nominated MP Shahira Abdullah.

The cost of treatment can be high for the workers’ employers, who have to foot the bill, she said, suggesting extending affordable healthcare schemes for migrant workers to cover dental care.

The scheme may not apply to all kinds of dental care, like polishing, but should address urgent needs, like infection, which can be life-threatening if untreated, said Dr Shahira.

In reply, Dr Janil said most dental needs of seniors, persons with special needs and migrant workers can be met by dentists at polyclinics and private dental clinics.

The Ministry of Health has also worked with the Ministry of Social and Family Development to list specialised dental clinics to raise awareness of the availability of these services.

MOH will also explore more partnerships with the private sector to serve the needs of migrant workers and other groups, said Dr Janil.