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Reaching patients with severe mental health disorders: WHO hands over 12 vehicles for community health providers

12 March 2024

WHO has donated 12 cars to the Ministry of Health of Ukraine to ensure the provision of care by community mental health teams (CMHTs) working across multiple oblasts of Ukraine. These vehicles are essential for CMHTs to be operational and allowing to reach their patients in remote communities.  Earlier, WHO had already donated 7 cars to the CMHTs in Ukraine.

“WHO has been supporting the development of the service model of community mental health teams in Ukraine since 2015. By providing technical support, trainings and continuous supervision to teams, we aim to equip them with skills, knowledge and everything needed to provide people-centred care to patients with severe mental health conditions. And we are committed to moving forward in this way to make high-quality mental health services accessible for everyone who needs them,” said Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Ukraine.

A community mental health team consists of a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker and nurse, and provides recovery-oriented care, enabling people with severe mental health conditions to lead fulfilling lives within their communities. Based on the global evidence, the team serves as an innovative and an alternative to the hospital-based treatment model, showing high levels of satisfaction among the service users and the staff.

CMHTs service model, which fits the Ukrainian context, was developed and tested by WHO in partnership with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, the National Health Service of Ukraine, international experts, and staff of psychiatric services of Ukraine. In 2021, the Ministry of Health introduced CMHTs as a national service model and included them in the state Programme of Medical Guarantees.

“We are constantly working to increase the availability of psychological help for Ukrainians. In current conditions, its relevance is growing even more. Together with international partners and all institutions involved in the implementation of the All-Ukrainian Mental Health Program, initiated by First Lady Olena Zelenska, we are looking for and implementing the best solutions so that patients can receive all the necessary support under any circumstances,” said Minister of Health Viktor Liashko. “The format of mobile multidisciplinary mental health teams has proven its effectiveness. It is important to scale it up. We are grateful to WHO for the donation of 12 cars, which will enable multidisciplinary teams to work even in remote communities.”

The procurement of vehicles was made possible with funding from the USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA).

“USAID supports the Ministry of Health and health-care providers in Ukraine to implement critical, life-saving emergency medical services. This includes the community mental health teams, who risk their lives to provide mental health and psychosocial support to Ukrainians living in hard to reach and frontline areas. USAID is proud to partner with WHO and the Ministry of Health to equip these teams with 12 new vehicles, to make it easier to reach Ukrainians in need,” said Jeffrey Lehrer, Acting Deputy Mission Director, USAID/Ukraine.

Since the beginning of war in February 2022, hospitals hosting CMHTs showed better preparedness to support their clients due to their mobility, innovation, and multidisciplinary nature. While sticking to their core functions, the teams shifted to remote support modalities in insecure areas or reached their patients in a community by car when public transport was stopped, as well as supported their clients in obtaining medications, provided emotional support, and helped manage stress.

Overall, 32 CMHTs supported by WHO in Ukraine provided more than 80,000 consultations to over 2,000 people with severe mental health disorders since February 2022.

Under the umbrella of the All-Ukrainian Mental Health Program launched by Olena Zelenska, Ukraine's mental health system, despite the war, continues to develop and become better prepared to meet the needs of the population.