For 118 days, Israel has been at war. 118 days of pain, of worry and longing. 118 days in which Israel has fought not only on the battlefront, but also on the legal front and in the wold public opinion. Meanwhile, the civilians at home have undertaken a multitude of initiatives to aid soldiers, the wounded, the families of the abducted and missing, the people displaced from home due to hostilities on the borders, and all those harmed by the catastrophe. Thousands
of Israelis were wounded in the war, and many have joined the 
circle of those coping mentally.

The National Program for Mental Health has been approved – but it doesn’t stop here

In an interview with “The Marker” (financial news supplement to Israel’s mainstream daily HaAretz), we stated that Israel’s public mental health system was deficienteven before the war. The war intensified the need for a functional system that would provide quality and timely services to every person needing it, as the law requires. The Ministry of Health prepared a comprehensive program focused on providing mental health services in the community. The program included, among other aspects, broadening additional services in the community, such as outpatient treatment, group homes, improvement and expansion ofinfrastructures in the psychiatric hospitalization system, and more. In the framework of the government budget, the program was allocated 1.4 billion NIS.
We welcome the budgeting of the program, which is considered the highest since the reform in mental health care, but we must ensure that the budget is used appropriately. We will continue to ensure that the majority of the budget addition is channeled toward mental health solutions in the community, including cutting the waiting time for treatment and providing answers for crisis situations. We will follow up to ensure the work is conducted under the Ministry of Health’s supervision and inspection. To our dismay, the Treasury Department has required that in the program’s framework, the existing arrangement by which people will obtain psychiatric treatment through their Health Maintenance Organizations, will now require them to pay 35 NIS per visit. Exceptions are children up to age 18, people receiving disability pensions, and people on guaranteed minimal income. While seemingly not a considerable high fee, this is a very problematic arrangement that could turn out to be an economic and barrier for people in need of treatment. People in need of treatment who cannot afford the fee will forgo getting the treatment. In addition, paying a fee will increase the inequality between those who can afford paying the fee and those who cannot.

What did we do when we learned that the The Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs was shutting down the Neot Hadassah institution in the country’s North and pressuring residents to relocate to other institutions in a disrespectful process and against the principles of the Social Services Law?

A few days ago we learned that the residents of Neot Hadassah, who were required to evacuate the facility due to the war, were told that the institution will be shut down permanently, and that they are required to move elsewhere. This was done without an orderly process, hastily, and without offering most of the residents services that would enable them to actualize their basic right to live independently in the community, in contradiction to the law. This also contravenes the recommendations of the Dotan Committee in the matter of closing institutions for people with disabilities, which were adopted by the Minister of Welfare. Furthermore, from information received, pressure was applied to the residents to relocate to other institutions, letting them understand that failing to act quickly would result in their having to settle for a placement less suitable for them.
Thus, the Neot Hadassah residents’ evacuation was conducted in a deficient manner, lacking consideration and respect for the residents’ needs. 
In an urgent letter we sent to the Director of the Ministry of Welfare and to the head of the Disabilities Administration, we requested immediate cessation of the process of transferring Neot Hadassah residents to other residential arrangements as was carried out. Instead we asked for other
actions to be taken, among them:
*To instruct all who are in charge of the process, to immediately stop all attempts to apply pressure on the residents to move to other institutions
*To conduct an assessment of the wants and needs of each individual resident and determine the best solution for each
*To offer each of the residents suitable options for living in the community while giving explanations for each option

Regulations for supported decision-making get underway!

Eight years ago this seemed a remote fantasy: after a long process led by B!zchut along with other organizations promoting the rights of people with disabilities, the Knesset approved in 2016 an amendment to the Law of Legal Capacity and Guardianship recognizing supported decision-making as an alternative to appointing a guardian. This was the start of a real revolution, although achieving the change appeared still distant. In Israel there are about 70,000 people under Guardianship. When a person has a guardian appointed, the former’s personal autonomy is seriously harmed: requiring the guardian’s approval for almost all actions – small as well as large. Many people with disabilities are strongly opposed to the institution of guardianship and the negation of freedoms it imposes. In the model of supported decision-making, by contrast, the idea is that if a person has difficulty making decisions about his or her life, they need assistance in the decision making process rather than someone deciding for them and negating their basic rights. A supporter in decision making will help in the process, beginning by amassing the required information, understanding the significance involved in making the decision, the consequences involved, and more. But in the end, the decision is made by the person himself/herself. Only recently, eight years after the law was amended, the first discussion on the regulation took place! The regulations are meant to establish who can become a supporter in decision-making, what the role involves, what training is required, and more. We will continue to take part in the discussions.

 News in the community department!

A new community coordinator has joined us: Lilach Bar, MSW, formerly director of the Leadership Center for People with Disabilities at Beit Issie Shapiro. Lilach brings with her many years of experience and familiarity with the world of people with disabilities. We have no doubt that she will contribute a lot in helping and accompanying people with disabilities and their family members. We wish her success! Also, as part of the community department, we’ve recently assembled a team of six volunteers, all law students at Bar Ilan University, whose role will be to assist in handling queries from the public, especially regarding people with disabilities’ rights in wartime and requests regarding mental health. In the team’s recent training session, the volunteers heard our vision and subjects we are dealing with, and were introduced to the relevant laws on the topic. They were also given examples of cases handled lately, and were taught how to conduct an intake dialogue for new enquiries. Wishing success to them all. If you too are interested in getting details about volunteering for B!zchut, you’re welcome to contact Lilach by email at : Lilach@bizchut.org.il

 Sincere hopes that all the hostages and all our soldiers will return soon and whole, 

The staff of B!zchut

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