Most South Australians who have a mental illness are treated privately and the patient and the treating health care professional discuss and reach agreement concerning the treatment and care services to be provided to the patient.
For a minority of people with a psychiatric condition, their illness can affect their capacity to understand the illness and their capacity to discuss their condition with a treating doctor. Their behaviour may also be self-injurious or dangerous to others. The Mental Health Act 2009 (SA) provides the legal basis for the involuntary treatment and care of this minority of patients. All references in this chapter are to this Act unless otherwise stated.
The Act is designed to protect the autonomy and liberty of the mentally ill and emphasises the need for the least restrictive approach to any treatment. There is also an emphasis on recognising the role of the family and carers in the treatment, the sharing of information and the preparation of Treatment and Care Plans. The aim of the Act is to bring about recovery, as far as possible, whilst retaining freedom, legal rights, dignity and self respect as far as is consistent with the protection of the mentally ill and the community.
It is generally accepted that involuntary admission to a specialist psychiatric hospital for emergency, short-term or long-term care should be used only where community-based care is judged as insufficient to meet the person's health care needs or where the admission is absolutely necessary to protect the person or other people.
As of 5 June 2017 there are substantial changes to the Mental Health Act 2009 (SA).
The following is a brief summary of the key changes:
- Greater focus on the rights of people with a mental illness including a requirement that a statement of patients’ rights be given to persons subject to a treatment order; the provision of an interpreter to assist during an examination if a person is unable to communicate in English; the right to be supported by a guardian, medical agent, relative, carer, friend, advocate or community visitor.
- An expanded Community Visitor Scheme.
- Level 1 community treatment orders increased to a maximum of 42 days (from 28 days) to allow more time for therapies to take effect.
- Where a level 1 inpatient treatment order is extended SACAT must conduct a review of the order if made within 7 days of the expiry or revocation of the previous inpatient treatment.
- Where a decision is made to extend a level 2 inpatient treatment order SACAT must conduct a review of the circumstances involved in the decision as soon as practicable.
- Cross-border treatment arrangements have been improved to enchance treatment options and the administration of interstate orders.
- Improvements to the oversight and operation of Electro-Convulsive Treatment.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.