In Belgium, mental health care will be accessible to everyone, regardless of age or type of mental care need. This was decided by the Belgian National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (Riziv) and the Federal Minister for Public Health. A milestone achievement for AGE member the Vlaamse Ouderenraad.
In 2018 the Minister of Public Health announced that a visit to the psychologist would be reimbursed under certain conditions for adults up to 64 years of age. Those conditions applied only in case of certain psychological problems such as anxiety, depression or problematic alcohol use, and with a limited list of authorised psychologists.
The Vlaamse Ouderenraad (Flemish older people’s Council) denounced the age limitation as discriminatory for older people and called for extending this measure to people over 65. The organisation also argued that anyone struggling with mental health problems must be able to receive affordable help, not only those struggling with certain mental disorders.
Their voice was heard as the measure has been extended to over 65s and the initial restrictions to be entitled reimbursement have been lifted. This topic will remain important in the coming years though, as the policy measure is introduced as a pilot project with a provisional end in 2023. The budget is also strictly defined and the number of practitioners that will be able to take part in the project is limited. Therefore the Vlaamse Ouderenraad considers this measure as an important first step towards a wider reform of the mental health care in Belgium.
“This is an important breakthrough in recognition of the right to mental health for all ages”, responds Nils Vandenweghe, director of the Vlaamse Ouderenraad. “Older people deserve accessible psychological care when needed, on an equal basis across generations. We welcome that this contested age barrier has finally been eliminated, and will continue to campaign for stronger formal and informal psychological care for older people.”
> Visit the Vlaamse Ouderenraad’s website for more (in Flemish)