Twenty years of mental health policies in Chile: lessons and challenges
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Over the last 20 years, Chile has increased the mental health share of its public health budget and implemented policies that radically transformed psychiatric services in the country. Both national and international factors have contributed to this process. The implementation of two national mental health plans has led to downsizing mental hospitals and developing community alternatives, such as primary health care, community mental health teams, day hospitals, acute psychiatric beds in general hospitals, and group homes. The annual number of new persons starting treatment for mental disorders in the public sector has increased by 343 percent between 2004 and 2007, with depression being the condition that motivates the highest frequency of visits. The Chilean experience has been successful in terms of increasing availability and accessibility of services and demonstrating that with a modicum of political support, it is possible to implement an effective and efficient community-based network of primary and secondary care facilities. Notwithstanding the progress made in this country, the mental health treatment gap is still significant.