Mental health reviews: two weeks better than four

Fri, 2012-03-16 17:01

Extended delays in reviewing the involuntary detention and treatment of people held under the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) (MHA) have concerned PIAC for some time.

Since 2010, some people have been detained in mental health facilities for up to four weeks without independent scrutiny of the legal basis for their detention.

The MHA provides that after a person is initially assessed and detained as an involuntary patient, he or she must be brought before the Mental Health Review Tribunal ‘as soon as practicable’ after admission.

In February 2010, the Hon Greg James QC, President of the Mental Health Review Tribunal, wrote to the NSW Area Directors of Mental Health advising that mental health inquiries could be expected to take place during the third or fourth week of detention.

PIAC, concerned psychiatrists and organisations representing mental health consumers campaigned for these reviews to take place within a week, as occurred prior to 2010.

After a comprehensive independent evaluation highlighted these concerns about the review process, the NSW Government announced on 15 March 2012 an increase in funding so that reviews by the Mental Health Review Tribunal could take place within two weeks.

PIAC believes this change does not adequately fulfil the legal requirement that the reviews take place ‘as soon as practicable’.

Nevertheless, it is a significant step towards reinstating an important and essential right to speedy review, which was enjoyed by mental health consumers in NSW before 2010.

Related coverage: New report cuts review wait time for mentally ill, SMH 16 March 2012.

PIAC On YouTube: Mental Health Act changes cause for concern

Photo: PIAC’s Peter Dodd with Sascha Callaghan from the University of Sydney, and psychiatrist Chris Ryan, also from the University of Sydney.

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