Mental Health Act Introduced

Department of Health (To Jan. 11)

September 29, 2004 2:27 PM

Government is taking another step toward mental health reform
through new legislation introduced today, Sept. 29, by Health
Minister Angus MacIsaac.

The new Mental Health Act updates 30-year-old legislation,
reflects current practices and is consistent with other mental
health legislation across the country.

"This is another building block in improving the mental health of
Nova Scotians," said Mr. MacIsaac. "Most people have the ability
to make their own treatment decisions, however, this act speaks
for those who cannot."

The proposed act will provide the legal framework for mental
health professionals to intervene on behalf of individuals who
lack the capacity to determine their need for treatment. It will
ensure that this is done without unduly interfering with civil
rights and liberties.

The bill introduces substitute decision-makers who will be
involved in all treatment decisions when necessary. In addition,
leave certificates are being introduced. These certificates allow
patients to be gradually reintroduced into the community, helping
them reintegrate in a planned way.

Also included in the act are community treatment orders (CTOs),
for those who have a history of repeated involuntary admissions.
CTOs will be available where assertive treatment teams are in
place. The CTOs will help people maintain wellness and stability
and assist in early detection of recurring illness, thereby
resulting in shorter hospital stays.

"The Schizophrenia Society applauds government for including
community treatment orders in the new legislation. Taking
leadership on this is not easy, but through partnership,
government and community organizations can work toward the goal
of early detection and treatment," said Hugh Bennett, executive
director of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia. "This will
help people, particularly those persons with schizophrenia, to
get the support they need within their community, while, at the
same time, expanding community education and awareness."

Capital Health has also expressed support for the new
legislation.

"It is good to see legislation dealing specifically with mental
health issues. Previously, mental health was addressed under
legislation embedded in the Hospitals Act," said Louise Bradley,
director, mental health and forensic services, Capital Health.
"We provided input and are glad that the province is addressing
the issue of CTOs as other provinces have."

The bill will serve all Nova Scotians with mental disorders,
including children, youth and adults, who are temporarily unable
to make their own treatment decisions.

"The new Mental Health Act, along with Department of Health's
mental health standards, will allow us to better meet the needs
of children and youth," said Susan Mercer, interim vice
president, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Program, IWK Health
Centre. "This is another step that will improve how we work
together with families toward better mental health care in the
community."

In addition, the bill introduces independent rights advisors who
will operate at arm's length from government and the district
health authorities/IWK Health Centre to advise people who are
involuntarily admitted, placed on a leave certificate or a
community treatment order.

The bill was created after careful review of the current
provincial legislation, legislation in other provinces, and in-
depth consultation with legal experts, and mental health
professionals, advocates and consumers. The first step in mental
health reform was the development of comprehensive mental health
standards, announced in 2003.


FOR BROADCAST USE:

     Government is taking another step toward mental health

reform through new legislation introduced today (September 29th),

by Health Minister Angus MacIsaac.

     Mr. MacIsaac says that while most people have the ability to

make their own treatment decisions, this act speaks for

those who cannot.

     The proposed Mental Health Act will provide the legal

framework for mental health professionals to intervene on behalf

of individuals who lack the capacity to determine their need for

treatment and care. It will ensure that this is done without

unduly interfering with civil rights and liberties.

     Among other things, the bill introduces leave certificates

to help patients re-integrate into the community, and community

treatment orders, which will improve early detection of recurring

illness.

-30-

Contact: Melissa MacKinnon
         Department of Health
         902-424-5323
         Cell: 902-499-0963
         E-mail: mackinnm@gov.ns.ca

jal         September 29, 2004      2:26 P.M.