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.