How to apply for a person to be assessed for compulsory mental treatment

Introduction

If you believe that a friend or relative may need some form of professional assistance for a mental disorder or illness, you may apply for them to be assessed for compulsory mental treatment. The right to do this is set out in the MENTAL HEALTH (COMPULSORY ASSESSMENT AND TREATMENT) ACT 1992.

How do I apply?

The first stage in the process is to apply to the Director of Area Mental Health Services for an assessment of the person in question.

Your application must be in writing, and must include:

  • details of the relationship between you and the proposed patient
  • the grounds on which you believe him or her to be mentally disordered
  • a statement that you have seen the proposed patient within the three days immediately before the application
  • a medical certificate, which states that the certifying medical practitioner has examined the proposed patient (giving the date of the examination, which must have been in the three days before the application), and which states reasonable grounds for believing that the person may be mentally disordered

What is the procedure for the assessment of the proposed patient?

  • The Director of Area Mental Health Services arranges an assessment examination and notifies the patient.
  • After the assessment, a medical practitioner issues a certificate of preliminary assessment, stating whether or not, in his or her opinion, there are reasonable grounds for believing that the patient is mentally disordered. A copy of the certificate is sent to the Director of Area Mental Health Services.
  • If the assessment found no mental disorder, the patient is free to go. But if reasonable grounds do exist, the proceedings continue with assessment and treatment. There is a strict timetable for this assessment and treatment.
  • After a final assessment the clinician responsible for the patient will state whether or not he or she is fit to be released from compulsory status, in which case the patient is free to go. If however the responsible clinician believes the patient is not fit to be released, the clinician must apply to the court for a compulsory treatment order.
  • The court decides to grant the compulsory order after the judge examines the patient.

Are all these proceedings public?

No, all of the proceedings and hearings are confidential.

What type of orders compulsory treatment orders can be made?

The Act provides for two types of compulsory treatment order:

  • in-patient orders – where the person is detained in hospital for treatment, and
  • community treatment orders – where the person is required to remain at his or her home or other residence for treatment

What rights does the patient have?

The Act sets out various rights for the patient, including:

  • information about treatment
  • psychiatric advice
  • legal advice

There is a formal complaint procedure that will enforce any breaches of the patient's rights under the Act.

The patient's review and appeal rights

A patient also has various review and appeal rights under the Act, including

  • having his or her condition reviewed by a Review Tribunal
  • an appeal to the District Court from decisions of the Review Tribunal
  • an application to the High Court for it to order an inquiry into the patient's condition
Cautionary notes
  • An appeal to the District Court or an application to the High Court for a judicial inquiry will need the guidance of a lawyer.


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