NAIROBI, Kenya October 21 – The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report has reccomended the creation of a mental Health and Happiness Commission under a new legislation on mental health which will be mandated to address the rising cases of mental illness among Kenyans.
In the final proposals presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his handshake partner Raila Odinga in Kisii, the 14 member steering committee on BBI noted that the proposal was among the issues raised by a special task force which was appointed in 2019 to address mental health issues in the country
“Stakeholders recommended important actions which the Government should take to alleviate their suffering and that of their loved ones who face this debilitating condition,” the document states, “These recommendations include development of legislation on mental health to provide, among other things, for the establishment of a Mental Health and Happiness Commission.”
The taskforce chaired by Dr Frank Njenga was formed in response to the presidential declaration of rising cases of mental health in the country.
It was tasked to find solutions on making mental healthcare accessible, lowering the stigma faced by mentally ill patients, and providing support to their caregivers.
In their recommendation, the Senator Yusuf Haji-led team further proposed an increment of funding for mental health services at both the county and national governments.
The BBI report also called for the fast-tracking of the enactment of the Persons with Pyschosocial Disabilities Bill and the development of the National Happiness Index.
If the BBI report is be adopted, devolved units will also be required to develop and enforce policies and legislations that regulate the use of drugs and alcohol.
“To further address issues of mental health, they recommended harmonisation of the NACADA Act, Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (Control) and the Tobacco Control Act and the need for County Governments to develop and enforce policies and legislation that regulate the use of drugs and alcohol, ” the report read in part.
The report has far-reaching recommendations that include the creation of the Prime Minister’s position.
This is the main recommendation in the report that is likely to dominate the political arena fuelled by the apparent differences pitting President Uhuru Kenyatta and his handshake partner Raila Odinga on one side and Deputy President William Ruto on the other.
Ruto did not attend the launch that took place at the Kisii State Lodge, a day after he called for a national conversation on the contents of the report.
“The BBI report is not about creating a Prime Minister’s position or president for anyone,” said President Kenyatta when he received the report in Kisii State Lodge on Wednesday, “this report is about Kenyans.”
Odinga too appeared to defend the proposal in the report saying, “this report and recommendations in it are not about Uhuru Kenyatta or myself.”