MPs back mental health amendments
A Bill designed to address gaps in the Mental Health Act of 1968 was passed on Friday.
The Bill for the Mental Health Amendment Act 2018 was approved after MPs from both sides said they welcomed proposed changes to improve care for mental health patients.
Under the revised Act, more mental health patients will be treated in the community after being released from the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute.
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said changes to the Act will allow supervised community treatment through Community Treatment Orders.
She said this will ensure that patients granted leave from the hospital for extended periods continue to receive the treatment needed.
Under the previous Act patients were granted leave that expired after 12 months and could not be renewed.
Ms Wilson said this resulted in patients not taking their medication after a year of being released and this would cause their health to deteriorate. This led to patients requiring detention again.
With changes to the Act, patients will be monitored after their release.
Ms Wilson said: “The introduction of Community Treatment Orders will allow patients to receive the appropriate treatment on an ongoing basis at home or in other community settings that otherwise would only be available in a hospital setting.”
She added: “Not only is treatment at the community level more cost effective, but it is the best place for full recovery from mental illness.”
The legislation will also address consent for treatment and will provide a framework within which mental capacity can be determined.
Ms Wilson said the Bill provided a legal safeguard for people who cannot consent or who refuse to consent.
She explained that second opinions and consultations would be allowed based on the severity of treatment proposed.
Ms Wilson said doctors will provide a clinical opinion on the patients ability to consent and, if the patient is unable to consent or refuses to consent, the doctor will assess if the treatment is appropriate.
She added: “The second opinion doctor will be independent of the Bermuda Hospitals Board in order to ensure a fair process for the patient.”
The Bill also establishes a framework to determine mental capacity.
Ms Wilson said the capacity framework will be outlined in a newly established code of practice and will be based on the UK’s Mental Capacity Act as well as standards of practice consulted on last year.
The framework will define a person lacking capacity, will list the criteria for determining capacity and will put things in place to protect people lacking capacity, she added.
Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the One Bermuda Alliance spokeswoman on health, backed the Bill.
Craig Cannonier, Opposition leader, said: “Bermuda has for many many years needed this to happen. We have seen things happen in public that should not have happened.”
He added that patients will receive better care because they will be closely monitored.
Cole Simons, OBA MP for Smith’s South, said some people are embarrassed to seek treatment for mental illness because of the stigma.
Mr Simons called for an educational campaign to help remove the stigma attached to mental health.
Christopher Famous, Progressive Labour Party MP for Devonshire East, said it was important that people could get treatment in their homes and not have the stigma of being institutionalised.
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