In 2018, the European Psychiatric Association (EPA) was invited to appoint an official team to visit and review mental health services in Bulgaria and advise the Ministry of Health regarding recommendations for a reform in mental health services.
For the EPA this was the first experience as advisor of a reform process, but the invitation was received with great interest and enthusiasm by the EPA Executive Committee, Board and Council of National Psychiatric Associations.
The panel appointed by the EPA was charged with several tasks: reading documents provided by Bulgarian health authorities describing the current status of mental health care in Bulgaria, visiting a range of Bulgarian mental health services, consulting with psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists, social workers and patients during the visit, and finally producing a Report on the Bulgarian Mental Health Care and Reform Process.
The panel was received by the Deputy Minister for Health Svetlana Yordanova at the Ministry for Health, had fruitful discussions with representatives from the National Centre for Public Health and Analyses and World Health Organization, visited State Psychiatric Hospitals, Mental Health Centres, University Psychiatric Clinics and a community mental health service run by a non-governmental organization. The panel also participated in a very informative round-table meeting with colleagues from the Bulgarian Psychiatric Associations, from University settings, and from several hospital or community based psychiatric services.
On behalf of the EPA and of the whole panel, I wish to express my gratitude to all those who contributed to make our visit constructive and hopefully productive for the future of mental health care in Bulgaria.
I invite you all to read the Report: the detailed analysis of challenges and issues that it provides is relevant to the Bulgarian Mental Health Service Delivery; however, many of those challenges and issues are common to other European countries and beyond.