The Mental Health Act outlines how someone is legally assessed for and receives compulsory mental health treatment.
People can be placed under the Act when they need urgent mental health treatment and/or are a risk to themselves or others. A clinician and judge initially decide whether someone should be placed under the Act, and if they are, they are required to stay in a mental health facility and receive treatment until that law is lifted.
The Government is proposing some changes to the Mental Health Act.
Scroll down to see the Government’s proposed changes to the Act - and find out how to have your say. These changes bring up a lot of questions. Some key ones to consider are:
- Is the proposal for the Court’s yearly review of a person’s compulsory status a good timeframe? Is it too long or too short?
- Will communicating over audiovisual technology be difficult for some people, such as those experiencing severe mental distress or other disabilities?
- Should a person receiving compulsory mental health treatment be required to use audiovisual technology, or should they be asked for consent
- Are there other safeguards that should be in place to protect special patients (people who have carried out a crime while mentally unwell) when they are being transported to a mental health facility?
1. Replacing indefinite treatment orders
Right now, a person who has been placed under the Act and has had two Court-granted extensions to their compulsory mental health treatment can become ‘indefinite’. This means that they will receive compulsory treatment in a mental health facility until a clinician or judge lifts their order under the Act, or they appeal successfully to the Mental Health Review Tribunal. This can impact on their human rights.
The government is proposing instead that a clinician must apply to the court to extend a person’s placement under the Act every 12 months after the first two extensions, to prevent them becoming indefinite. Patients would continue to have a clinical review every six months and would still have the right to apply to the Tribunal.
2. Whānau audio or visual link
When a person is assessed to see if they should receive compulsory mental health treatment, they are provided with an audio or visual link if they cannot make it in person. Currently, their family or caregivers are not allowed to attend this virtual assessment – they are only allowed to attend assessments in-person.
The government is proposing that when the purpose of the first audiovisual assessment is explained to that person virtually, their family or caregivers should be able to attend. We think this sounds practical and will help to support family and whānau.
3. Govt staff to transport special patients
Right now, government staff such as corrections officers or police are not allowed to transport special patients, or people who have carried out a crime and need compulsory mental health treatment. This transport might be to and from court, for example.
The government is proposing that government staff be allowed to do this and must first make a transport management plan. They may be allowed to use restraint or other force if it is the safest and least restrictive option to maintain patient and public safety, and reasonably necessary in the circumstances.
4. Examinations using audiovisual technology
During COVID-19 Alert Levels 3 and 4, a person was able to be assessed via audiovisual technology to see if they needed to receive compulsory mental health treatment. This assessment was undertaken by a clinician, judge or member of the Review Tribunal.
The government is proposing that these audiovisual assessments be made permanently available if ‘it is not practicable for the person to be physically present’. Undergoing this audiovisual assessment won’t require a person’s consent, unless it’s during a court hearing.