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Health & disability

The compulsory assessment process

Step 4: The first period of assessment and treatment

What happens during the first period of assessment and treatment?

Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, s 11

If a certificate of preliminary assessment says that you have a mental disorder, you have to receive treatment for up to five days. You are now legally defined as a “patient” under the Mental Health Act. You will be assigned a responsible clinician who will be in charge of your treatment.

What are my rights during this period?

Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, ss 16, 63A-75, 84;

You do not have the right to refuse this first period of treatment. But you do have the right to ask a judge to review the decision that there are reasonable grounds to believe you have a mental disorder (see “Reviews and appeals” in this chapter).

The patient rights set out in the Mental Health Act apply, and you (the patient) can make a complaint if any of these rights are breached. You also have the right to talk to a lawyer (and all other relevant rights in the Bill of Rights). Both sets of rights are explained in this chapter under “Your rights as a mental health patient”.

If you are being detained in a hospital, you also have the right to seek a “judicial inquiry” to see whether you are being held illegally (see “‘Judicial inquiry’: Going to the High Court” in this chapter).

Habeas Corpus Act 2001, s 6

You also have a separate right to apply to a High Court Judge for what’s called a “writ of habeas corpus” – this is a long-established type of legal action you can use if you believe the police or other officials are holding you illegally (see “‘Judicial inquiry’: Going to the High Court” in this chapter).

Will I have to stay in hospital?

Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, ss 11, 113

The notice that you got with your certificate of preliminary assessment will say whether you will be treated in the community or be admitted and treated in a hospital.

If you are being treated in the community, the notice will tell you where your treatment will take place, for example, at home or at a community mental health service. If you refuse to attend treatment, a DAO can take you there, with police help if necessary, or you can be transferred to hospital.

If you are being treated in hospital, you may not have to stay in hospital for the whole five days. The responsible clinician can give you “leave” for some of the time or decide part way through the five days that you can be treated in the community. If you leave hospital without permission, the responsible clinician can take steps to have you brought back, including asking the police to help them.

What happens if my condition changes during these five days?

Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, s 11

If at any stage during this period the responsible clinician decides that you are fit to be released from compulsory status, you cannot be made to receive any more treatment. “Fit to be released from compulsory status” means that you no longer have a mental disorder and are free to leave.

Did this answer your question?

Mental health

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Health and Disability Commissioner


This “Mental health and addictions” webpage has information and pamphlets about mental-health services, including information for families and whānau.

Since the Mental Health Commission ceased to exist in 2012, the functions of the Health and Disability Commissioner have included monitoring mental health and addiction services and promoting improvements to those services. A specialist Mental Health Commissioner position was established in 2012 as part of the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner.

Ministry of Health Services and Support


List of publicly funded health and disability services available in New Zealand.

Mental Health Foundation


The Mental Health Foundation has useful links and resources for people dealing with mental health issues. Helplines:


1737 call or text to talk


1737 is a completely free service to call or text 1737 any time, 24 hours a day. You’ll get to talk to (or text with) a trained counsellor.

Mental health district inspectors


You can find a list of district inspectors on www.health.govt.nz if you search for “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.

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