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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).

The patient rights set out in the Mental Health Act apply, and you 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 Act). Both sets of rights are explained in this section – see: Your rights as a mental health patient.

If you are being held “detained” in a hospital, you also have the right to seek a judicial inquiry to see whether you are being held illegally.

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.

For more information, see: “Judicial inquiry’: Going to the High Court”).

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 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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