Health Bulletins

Proposed Amendments to the Mental Health Act for Long-Term Patients

September 23, 2015

Today, Ontario is introducing amendments to the Mental Health Act in response to an Ontario Court of Appeal decision that struck down the Mental Health Act provision that allows a person to be involuntarily detained for more than six months.

The Court struck out the provision because the legislation in its current form does not provide sufficient procedural protections to ensure that long-term patients are detained in a manner that reflects their Charter rights.

The Court of Appeal suspended its decision for one year, until December 23, 2015. The proposed changes to the Mental Health Act would need to be in effect by December 22, 2015.

The proposed amendments to address the Court’s decision would give the Consent and Capacity Board new powers to make orders concerning the manner in which these involuntary patients who have been in hospital for longer than six months are detained.

In making these orders, which would be based on the evidence before it, the Consent and Capacity Board would take into account that any limitations on the patient’s civil liberty should be the least restrictive in consideration of the circumstances requiring the patient’s detention. The Consent and Capacity Board would take various factors into account including the safety of the public, the ability of the psychiatric facility to manage and provide care for the patient and others, the mental condition of the patient and their re-integration into society, and the other needs of the patient.

The proposed amendments would allow the Consent and Capacity Board to:

Involuntary patients in hospital for longer than six months would continue to have the right to apply to the Consent and Capacity Board to have the Board review whether the patient meets the criteria for involuntary detention every three months, with a hearing being mandatory once a year. These long-term patients could apply for an additional order any time they seek a review of the renewal of their certificate of continuation where it has been at least 12 months since the patient's last application for one of the new orders or where there has been a material change in circumstances.

Patients would receive rights advice to notify them of these new orders that can be issued by the Consent and Capacity Board.

The province is also proposing amendments to the Mental Health Act that would allow physicians and Nurse Practitioners to sit on Consent and Capacity Board panels for less complex hearings. This would free up psychiatrists for more complex hearings, such as those expected for involuntary patients who have been in a psychiatric facility longer than six months.

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