To respond to the increase in psychosocial problems associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, an extension of reimbursement for primary psychological care was approved. An additional budget of €16.7 million will enable children, adolescents and seniors to consult a primary psychological care provider for the most common psychological problems.
Furthermore, actions taken during the pandemic to strengthen mental health care provision included:
- Reimbursement of video consultations by psychiatrists:
- Remote aftercare following admission to a psychiatric hospital;
- Possibility of partial hospitalisation at the patient’s home;
- Awareness-raising among primary health care professionals to encourage the safe use of psychopharmaceuticals;
- Training of hospital staff to improve the care of individuals with alcohol problems;
- Psychological support for hospital staff.
In addition, within the Interministerial Conference on Public Health (IMC), the competent Ministers concluded a protocol agreement on the coordinated approach to strengthening the provision of primary psychological care in the context of this pandemic. The agreement sets out several priority target groups, including children and parents in vulnerable families, young adults, people with existing mental health problems, etc. An additional budget of €112.5 million was set aside for this effort. This equates to a total of 1,986 full-time equivalent (FTE) psychological care providers.
A NIHDI agreement was recently elaborated, in which the practical arrangements and the new convention on reimbursement of psychological care are set out. A number of temporary measures aimed at vulnerable target groups have already been taken in this context. Indeed, various studies have shown that the mental well-being of young people and students, singles and persons working in professions most affected by the pandemic (e.g. health care, hospitality, cultural sector) is most at risk. In order to specifically meet the psychological needs of these most vulnerable groups, the following measures have been taken:
- Psychological care for self-employed people with psychological needs through, inter alia, a free helpline with an annual budget of €55.5 million.
- Outpatient, proactive, psychological (group) interventions for students. €1.5 million was set aside for this.
- Strengthening mobile crisis assistance. €4.7 million was set aside for this.
- Extension of the operations of mobile teams in the mental health networks for the socio-economically vulnerable target group including older people who often do not seek help themselves. An annual amount of €20 million has been earmarked for this purpose.
- An intensification of the residential care capacity for children and young people with serious and complex mental health problems and an extension of the care capacity for accommodating children and young people with mental health problems in non-psychiatric hospital services. Approximately €20 million has been set aside for this purpose.
Find out more about the protocol agreement (Dutch and French only): www.health.belgium.be
The convention for reimbursement of psychological care started in September 2021 and will last for 3 years. The agreement is a historic step in improving accessibility of psychological care to the public and enables further development of 2 psychological care functions, namely primary psychological care and specialised psychological care within the framework of outpatient mental healthcare.
Find out more about the agreement for the reimbursement of psychological care (Dutch and French only): www.riziv.fgov.be
Furthermore, additional resources were granted to the Vlaamse Kruis for their cooperation in the management of the corona crisis, including for offering psychosocial support in the COVID-19 call centre intended for the general public.
Find out more about remote aftercare via Remote aftercare by psychiatric hospitals - NIHDI (fgov.be)
Find out more about partial hospitalisation at home via COVID-19: psychiatric care: partial hospitalisation at home - NIHDI (fgov.be)