New Mental Health Bill Introduced to Tasmania Parliament

Thursday 1 November 2018 @ 3.26 p.m. | Legal Research

The Mental Health Amendment Bill 2018 (the “Bill”) was introduced to Tasmania’s House of Assembly on 27 September 2018, by the Hon Elise Archer (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Corrections, Environment, and the Arts). The object of the Bill will to be amend the Mental Health Act 2013 (Tas) (the “Act”) to remove the requirement for the Mental Health Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) to conduct a mandatory review of a treatment order where a patient has complied with the treatment order and the decision to admit the patient is a clinical one to prevent possible harm.

The Bill is currently before the House of Assembly where it is awaiting further comment and discussion.

Current Provisions of the Act

The Act provides for the Tribunal to sit in divisions of one Member, or three or more Members, chosen by the President. Section 181(1)(f) of the Act presently requires that any review of a treatment order must be conducted by a division of three members. Within its existing resources, the Tribunal can effectively conduct a one-member review, but convening a three-member panel has the potential to incur extra costs.

In her Second Reading Speech, the Minister said:

“… The Tribunal has advised that where a patient has complied with their treatment order and the decision to admit the patient is a clinical one to prevent possible harm, there are no compliance issues that require the Tribunal’s consideration. In most cases such a review can be effectively undertaken by single member of the Tribunal … [The Tribunal] has also advised that a significant number of patients find three-member hearings arising from a readmission to hospital very distressing, particularly given that periodic reviews are already mandated by the Act … this process is often incredibly stressful for patients and, in many cases, detrimental to their treatment and recovery during a period of already heightened stress and ill-health.”

It is hoped that the proposed amendments to the Act will address these issues.

The Proposed Amendments

The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill outlines the purpose of the Act:

“…The Act balances consumer rights with the need for treatment, while also recognising the important role played by carers and family members of people with a mental illness. It enables individuals with capacity to make their own treatment choices, while facilitating treatment for individuals who lack decision-making capacity and who need treatment for their own health or safety, or for the safety of others …”

The proposed amendment will amend s 181(1) of the Act to:

“… provide that where a patient has been admitted to an approved facility pursuant to section 47A of the Act to prevent possible harm, the mandatory review of that patient’s treatment order in accordance with section 181(1)(d) of the Act may be conducted by a division of either one member or three or more members of the Mental Health Tribunal…”

The amendment will provide the President of the Tribunal with the flexibility to appoint (where appropriate), a division of one Tribunal member to review treatment orders for s 47A admissions, this will assist to reduce costs where matters are likely to be straightforward, as the Tribunal can conduct a one-member review within existing resources.

Improvements to Mental Health Resources

Speaking to ABC News, Michael Ferguson (Minister for Health) said the Government was investing $95 million to "build a better mental health system". Mr Ferguson was quoted as saying:

"Over the past four years, we have provided millions of dollars in additional funding, boosting support for child and adolescent mental health and opening more community-based mental health beds …"

In a Ministerial Statement of 16 October 2018, the Minister referred to improvements made to mental health resources:

“ … We will be taking immediate action to recruit and open 12 new Mental Health in the Home beds in Hobart - in response to increasing demand on the Emergency Department, and in response to increasing pressure on the acute mental health inpatient unit at the RHH [Royal Hobart Hospital] … The Government will construct a brand new 12-bed dedicated mental health facility as St Johns Park in New Town, to assist with the management of demand for mental health services, to increase patient flow and deliver more access to mental health care …”

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