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Mental Health : Bill 68 (Mental Health Legislative Reform), 2000

The Removal of "Imminent" from Bill 68

Bill 68 (Mental Health Legislative Reform), 2000 removes the term "imminent" from the committal criteria wherever it appears in the Mental Health Act.   The removal of imminent from the legislation is in response to the recommendations of numerous Coroner's Inquests, health organizations, law enforcement agencies and family groups. The term imminent has been the subject of widespread confusion. This in turn has prevented people who needed treatment from getting treatment and has jeopardized both the mentally ill and public safety. The Ontario Medical Association, Ontario Psychiatric Association and the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario have recommended the removal of "imminent" from the Mental Health Act.

The term "imminent" was widely misapplied by lay people (including health care providers) who wrongly thought that it was synonymous with "immediate." The former legislation was unclear, as the term was not defined in the Mental Health Act. It was unclear whether the term "imminent" meant right away, 1 hour, 2 days ? There was also considerable confusion not only as to the duration of "imminent" but as to when "imminent" applied.

One of the problems associated with the "imminent" requirement was that it often prevented people who were deteriorating from getting the treatment they needed at an earlier stage. The misinterpretation of the word "imminent" was a stumbling block to the treatment of those in need and had the potential to jeopardize them or the public in general.

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