Changes to legislation to improve mental health outcomes

Published Thursday, 22 May, 2014 at 10:36 AM

Minister for Health
The Honourable Lawrence Springborg

Delivering better mental health outcomes for Queenslanders is the goal of a major review of mental health legislation to pave the way for more relevant and effective laws.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg released a discussion paper for public comment on changes to the Mental Health Act.

“Years of ad hoc approaches by Labor Governments have seen the need to updated existing legislation to strengthen the rights of patients, improve service delivery and reduce the costs of administering the current legislation,” Mr Springborg said.

“Our recent review of the Mental Health Act of the former Labor Government revealed it to be overly complex and inconsistent, difficult to understand and administer.

“More than 200 improvements were recommended – so many that this ad-hoc act will be repealed.

“Almost one in two Queenslanders, aged 16 to 85, will experience a form of mental illness some time in their lives and for carers, families and communities, it’s an enormous concern.

“Mental health was an issue forgotten by the former Labor Government. Only the LNP has a strong plan for progress in this key area.”

Mr Springborg said the changes proposed in the discussion paper were very broad and covered most aspects of the Mental Health Act, including provisions to strengthen community protection from people who had committed unlawful acts.

“We also want to focus the system on treating the acute stage of people’s illness and then encourage the person’s rehabilitation and recovery,” he said. “Research shows that wherever possible, treatment should be provided in the community rather than in a hospital to get the best patient outcomes.

“Patients will have strengthened rights at hearings of the Mental Health Review Tribunal, including the right to call persons to give evidence, the right to be accompanied by a support person, and to have legal representation for key hearings.”

Services will be improved by better aligning the Act with good clinical practice. For persons being treated in the community, greater flexibility will be provided, enabling mental health treatment to be provided in any clinically appropriate setting.

Mr Springborg said there had been some community concern about the use of justice examination orders under the current Mental Health Act. Therefore proposals would tighten up these orders and require clinical input prior to an order being made.

The Mental Health Court would also be strengthened by focusing on the most serious offences with proposals to expand the type of orders that the court can make.

The community will be given greater certainty and stability in the early stages of a forensic order by providing authority for the Mental Health Court to set a non-revoke period for the order.

“Queenslanders can now have their say about the replacement legislation. For the sake of all affected by mental health issues – those personally affected, their families and carers – we must get it right,” Mr Springborg said.

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[ENDS] 22 May 2014 Contact: Ian Eckersley 0432 754 897