The Mental Health Act 1996 is legislation for the care and treatment of persons with mental illnesses and for safeguarding their rights. Most people with mental illness can and do seek out treatment for their condition. The Mental Health Act is concerned with the small number of persons who cannot or who do not seek out treatment.
The Guardianship and Administration Act 1995, the Criminal Justice (Mental Impairment) Act 1999, the Sentencing Act 1997 and the Mental Health Act together provide the legislative framework in Tasmania for people with a mental illness.
The Guardianship and Administration Act establishes the Guardianship and Administration Board. The Board deals with financial and lifestyle matters for people with disabilities that affect their ability to make decisions. There are special provisions under the Mental Health Act for applying to the Board for consent to medical treatment for a person with a mental illness.
The Criminal Justice (Mental Impairment) Act makes provision for the detention and treatment of people who are unfit to be tried and people found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity. The Act also deals with the release of such persons.
Under the Sentencing Act, people who are found guilty of offences may become subject to orders under Mental Health legislation.
The Mental Health Act provides for voluntary and involuntary hospital admission; Initial, Continuing Care and Community Treatment Orders; Authorisations for Temporary Admission; the establishment and administration of the Secure Mental Health Unit; the Mental Health and Forensic Mental Health Tribunals, and Official Visitors.
The Mental Health Act regulates a personís admission to an approved hospital as a voluntary. A person may be admitted as a voluntary patient if he or she provides informed consent or with the consent of a parent or guardian if the person is less than 14 years old.
Tasmania has six approved hospitals, as follows:
- Royal Hobart Hospital;
- Launceston General Hospital;
- North West Regional Hospital;
- Roy Fagan Centre;
- Millbrook Rise Centre; and the
- Howard Hill Centre.
The Mental Health Act provides for a personís involuntary admission to an approved hospital by way of an Initial Order, a Continuing Care Order or an Authorisation for Temporary Admission.
Initial Orders are made by a medical practitioner on the application of an Authorised Officer or person responsible.
A 'person responsible' is a guardian, spouse or de facto (if there is a close and continuing relationship), carer, or close friend or relative.
An Authorised Officer is generally a nurse, social worker or other professional with experience in mental health. Senior ranking police officers are also Authorised Officers.
Initial Orders must be confirmed by an approved medical practitioner (generally, a psychiatrist). An Initial Order is effective for up to 72 hours. An Initial Order provides authority for a person to be detained in an approved hospital for the purposes of assessment.
Continuing Care Order
A persons who is already subject to an Initial Order, a Community Treatment Order or an Authorisation for Temporary Admission, can be placed on a Continuing Care Order.
Continuing Care Orders are made by two medical practitioners, at least one of whom must be an approved medical practitioner, who have each separately examined the person.
A Continuing Care Order is authority for a person to be involuntarily detained in an approved hospital for up to six months. A Continuing Care Order may be discharged or renewed.
While a Continuing Care Order is authority for a person to be detained in an approved hospital, it is not authority for the person to be provided with treatment. Authority for treatment lies with the Guardianship and Administration Act.
More information about consent to medical and treatment can be found on the Guardianship and Administration Board website . Patients on Continuing Care Orders may be granted leave from hospital. Involuntary patients may also be secluded, restrained or transferred between facilities.
Community Treatment Order
Community Treatment Orders are made by two approved medical practitioners each of whom has separately examined the person within the preceding 7 days.
A Community Treatment Order may require a person to attend appointments and/or submit to treatment for up to 12 months. A Community Treatment Order may be discharged or renewed.
Authorisation for Temporary Admission
A person on a Community Treatment Order who breaches the Order may be admitted to an approved hospital by way of an Authorisation for Temporary Admission. The person may be detained for up to 14 days, before being discharged or put on a Continuing Care Order.
Secure Mental Health Unit
The Mental Health Act was amended in 2005 to provide for and regulate Secure Mental Health Units. The Units provide assessment, psychiatric treatment and care for people who require specialist mental health inpatient treatment and are detained under relevant legislation.
Tasmania has one Secure Mental Health Unit, the Wilfred Lopez Centre.
Mental Health Tribunal and the Forensic Mental Health Tribunal
The Mental Health Act establishes the Mental Health Tribunal and the Forensic Mental Health Tribunal.
The Tribunals have medical and legal expertise, and are independent of the public mental health services.
The Mental Health Tribunalís role is to review Continuing Care Orders and Community Treatment Orders. The Tribunal can revoke, vary or confirm the Orders. A person subject to an order or a person who has an interest in the personís welfare may also apply to the Tribunal for a review.
Official Visitors are persons appointed by the Governor to visit and inspect mental health services, listen to and help resolve patient complaints, and help people apply to the Mental Health Tribunal.
Official Visitors are required to visit approved hospitals on at least once a month. They can require staff members to produce records relating to the admission, care and treatment of patients, arrange interviews with patients, or answer questions about the care and treatment of patients.
Official Visitors must report suspected contraventions of the Act to the Mental Health Tribunal, and must provide an Annual Report to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
For more information about the Mental Health Act or Mental Health Act Review, please contact:Anna Mayo Legislation Review Officer Mental Health Services Carruthers Building St Johns Park New Town Tasmania 7008 Ph: 03 6230 7929 Fax: 03 6230 7739 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org