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The compulsory assessment process

Step 1: The application process

Who can apply to have you assessed?

Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, ss 8, 8A

Anyone over 18 years old who believes that you may be suffering from a mental disorder, and who has seen you within three days of the date of the application, can apply to have you assessed to see whether you do have a “mental disorder” under the Mental Health Act.

The application is made to the Director of Area Mental Health Services (DAMHS).

For the meaning of “mental disorder” and for information about the DAMHS, see: Definitions of key terms and descriptions of key people.

How does someone apply?

There’s a special application form they’ll need to fill in. It’s not enough to just write a letter, even if they do cover all the required information (see below).

A person can get a copy of this application form by contacting the mental health crisis team in their area. They’re called a “CATT” team – which stands for “Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team”. Contact details for local CATT teams can be found at mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/in-crisis.

The CATT team will also give the person helpful information about how to apply and about how the compulsory assessment process works.

What does an application have to say?

Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, ss 8A, 8B

An application to have someone assessed must be in writing and must include the following information:

  • why the applicant thinks that you have a mental disorder
  • what the applicant’s relationship is to you
  • a statement that the applicant has seen you in the last three days
  • a certificate from a doctor or nurse who has examined you in the last three days. The certificate must say there are reasonable grounds for believing that you have a mental disorder.

The person who makes the application will need to arrange for the doctor or nurse to provide the certificate. (But in some cases, the doctor or nurse issuing the certificate may be the person who applies for compulsory assessment.)

Whoever the applicant is, the doctor or nurse who issues the certificate will inform local mental health services. The Director of Area Mental Health Services will then arrange for an assessment examination.

What are my rights after an application is made?

Once an application is made to have you assessed, you become a “proposed patient” under the Mental Health Act, which means you have all the patient rights set out in that Act. You also have the relevant rights set out in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. Both sets of rights are explained in this chapter (see: Your rights as a mental health patient).

Can I be made to accept treatment at this stage?

Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, s 110A

No. However, if it’s a doctor rather than a nurse who issues the certificate for the application, the doctor can give you a sedative without your consent. They must believe that you are a significant danger to yourself and that urgent sedation would be in your best interests.

If you are given a sedative without your consent, the doctor must tell the DAMHS in writing. If you think you shouldn’t have been sedated, you can make a complaint to a district inspector (see: “What can I do if any of my patient rights are breached?”).

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Mental health

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Te Hiringa Mahara/Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission

The objective of Te Hiringa Mahara is to contribute to better and equitable mental health and wellbeing outcomes for people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Website: www.mhwc.govt.nz

Health and Disability Commissioner

The Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) website sets out your rights under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights and how you can make a complaint to the Commissioner.

Website: www.hdc.org.nz
Email: hdc@hdc.org.nz
Phone: 0800 11 22 33

To make a complaint online: www.hdc.org.nz/making-a-complaint/make-a-complaint-to-hdc

Mental Health Support

Publicly funded health and disability support services available in New Zealand:

Mental health district inspectors

District Inspectors are lawyers appointed by the Minister of Health to protect the rights of people receiving treatment under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, or the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003.

Website: www.health.govt.nz/our-work/mental-health-and-addiction/mental-health-legislation/mental-health-compulsory-assessment-and-treatment-act-1992/mental-health-district-inspectors

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