Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure seeking to institutionalize a holistic program for persons with developmental disabilities and their families, including the creation of capacity-based training, employment and livelihood programs for them.

De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 855 establishing institutional and social mechanisms to support persons with development disabilities and their families.

“The State’s failure to integrate these individuals into mainstream Philippine society leaves them further marginalized and disempowered and greatly inhibits them from escaping the vicious cycle of poverty,” she said.

“Undeniably, addressing the needs of these individuals in our country would require a comprehensive legislative framework and integrated operational plan for developmental disabilities,” she added.

Under SB 855, also referred to as “Integrating Persons with Autism and other Development Disabilities Act,” an inter-agency and multi-sectoral agency shall be created to develop and implement a National Development Disability Program.

The agency, to be called Development Disability Council of the Philippines (DDCP), is tasked to promote awareness, education and information about issues on development disabilities and set up network of support groups for their families.

It is also mandated to produce a databank and information and monitoring system (IMS) on the demographic, socio-economic and incidence, type and prevalence of persons with development disabilities in the country.

“Currently, there is no national data tracking system that caters to the state of developmental disabilities in the country,” De Lima pointed out, adding that a national registry is needed to conduct thorough and complete epidemiologic surveys of the issue.

The measure also seeks a mandatory Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) coverage for developmental disabilities, such as autism, to ease the burden of thousands of families struggling with the costs for its detection and treatment.

“This bill provides for mandatory PhilHealth coverage for persons with developmental disabilities, in addition to the benefits provided for persons with disabilities (PWDs) under existing laws,” she added.

According to her, persons with developmental disabilities, such as autism, constitute a subset of persons with disabilities (or PWDs), whose disabilities usually manifest during infancy or childhood.

These developmental diseases are marked by delayed development or functional limitations especially in learning, language, communication, cognition, behavior, socialization, or mobility.

SB 855 also seeks a mechanism to protect persons with development disabilities from discrimination in schools as well as the establishment of capacity-based training, employment, and livelihood programs for persons with developmental disabilities.

The De Lima measure seeks to conduct a comprehensive training program for health providers all over the country so as to help these persons cope with their condition and turn them into productive members of society.

Photo Credit: facebook.com/leiladelimaofficial