Non-governmental organizations (associations, foundations), as well as natural persons and religious associations (churches) have the statutory capacity to provide services and benefits to persons with mental health problems, and to set up and operate establishments, including private healthcare institutions operating under a contract with the National Health Fund NFZ, as well as other establishments financed or co-financed by the central or local government (either commune, district or province authorities).
Establishments of this kind operate by fulfilling the tasks delegated by the government, consisting in delivering social assistance, rehabilitation of persons with disabilities, or occupational activation (under the Social Assistance Law Act, the Mental Health Act, and the Act on Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities).
They include the following establishments, discussed in other articles:
- Occupational therapy workshops,
- Employment support centres,
- Community self-help homes,
- Supervised apartments,
- Specialist psychiatric home care services,
- Support groups and support centres for patients.
Non-governmental organizations may apply for funds from various resources and contributors to add new innovative projects to their standard profile of activities. These organizations are operated by persons actively engaged in working with patients (as well as patients' families and patients themselves); they have valuable insights into and the ability to correctly respond to the needs and problems of patients and their families at the local level.
Without the administrative burden, they can quickly react to the changing environmental conditions to address the problems with social integration of people who suffer from mental health problems.
Non-governmental organizations can be at the forefront in developing local social support systems for people with mental health conditions. Under the current circumstances, it is hardly imaginable for the local community-based psychiatric care system to operate effectively without the active involvement of non-governmental organizations.
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Non-governmental organizations (associations and foundations) operate according to the following basic acts of law:
Act on Foundations of 06.04.1984,
Act of Associations of 07.04.1989,
Act on Public Benefit Activity and Volunteerism of 24.04.2003
Association versus foundation
Associations and foundations differ in a number of material aspects. By analysing these differences, a more informed decision can be made as to which of these two legal forms better serves our purpose.
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An association is defined as an organized group of people who want to achieve a common goal. It also involves the notion of membership.
At least 15 founding members are required to set up an association; during a founding meeting, they elect a founding committee and adopt the Statutes. Minutes of the founding meeting along with an attendance list, names of the founding members, the Statutes, and an application for registration are then forwarded to a competent court of registration. Association's activities are based on voluntary (non-for-profit) work of its members who share an interest in achieving the purpose defined in the Statutes. The supreme authority of an association is the General Assembly.
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A foundation has to have assets, which are allocated to it by its founder(s) and multiplied in the subsequent course of its activities. The allocation of funds (purpose of the foundation) is determined by the founder(s) and stipulated in the Statutes.
A foundation can be established by one or more natural or legal persons. The founders make a declaration of will in the form of a notary act (the founding act) and adopt the Statues. An application for registration is then forwarded to a competent court of registration. The registration application is filed along with the following documents:
- the founding act, certified by a notary public,
- minutes of the proceedings of the Founding Committee, with resolutions on the incorporation of the foundation and its governing bodies,
- specimen signatures of individuals authorised to represent the foundation, certified by a notary public,
- the legal title to occupy the premises in which the foundation operates.
Both associations and foundations have a legal personality as soon as they are registered in the National Court Register. Associations are supervised by statosta, the president of a local administrative unit where the association operates, while foundations are under the supervision of a competent minister.
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In some cases, a foundation or an association dedicated to people with mental disorders is established by individuals directly affected by the problem (patients, their families, friends, healthcare professionals who deal with the problem in their professional work) in order to address specific needs of patients in their immediate environment. Organizations like these are also based on the idea of self-help.