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Senate approves mental health amendment

One Bermuda Alliance senator Dwayne Robinson (File photograph)

The Mental Health Amendment Act and the Proceeds of Crime Amendment Act won support from both political parties as they passed through the Senate yesterday.

The revised Mental Health Act, which addresses gaps in the previous Mental Health Act, sets requirements for the assessment, detention and rights of treatment for the people suffering from mental disorders who may be at risk of harm to themselves or others.

One Bermuda Alliance senator Dwayne Robinson said the Opposition supports the bill, but asked that future provisions be made to support people with mental health in the workplace.

Mr Robinson added: “It is a well needed legislation that will benefit the community as we have not put much emphasis on mental health as we should have.”

“We feel it is a necessary step in modernising the structure in which we support the mental health community.”

Government senator Jason Hayward replied: “We are currently progressing to get there, but we need to improve our education of mental health as a society. There are discriminatory practices that do take place that keep individuals with mental health lacked outside of the workforce.”

He said there is a lack of understanding for those who are in the workforce and what they need to cope.

Independent senator James Jardine said he also supported the bill.

He said amendments to Section 65 of the Act is a welcome addition.

Under that section of the Act, it is an offence for people who have care or custody of a person with a mental disorder to ill-treat or wilfully neglect that person.

Joan Dillas-Wright, the President of the Senate, said: “I am really pleased to see this tabled today, because I think it will help all those individuals who work with the mentally ill in Bermuda both at the hospital and in the community.

“I think it will help families too, because now with treatment in the community some of them do not have to be admitted to the hospital if signs and symptoms are recognised early.”

The Mental Health Amendment Act allows for community treatment orders, establishes legislation for consent to treatment and a framework within which mental capacity can be determined for the consent of treatment.

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.

Under the revised Act, more mental health patients will be treated in the community after being released from the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute.

The previous Act granted leave to patients after 12 months and was not renewed.

This resulted in the health of chronic patients deteriorating because they stopped taking their medication after the 12 month period.

Health minister Kim Wilson said last month that community based treatment would be more cost effective and that it allowed patients to continue to receive treatment in their homes or community settings.

The new Act also has legal safeguards for people who cannot consent to treatment or who refuse to consent.

It introduces requirements for second opinions and consultations based on the severity of the treatment proposed for these people.

The second opinion doctor will be independent of the Bermuda Hospitals Board in order to ensure a fair process for the patient.

The Amendment to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2019, which focuses particularly on international financial sanctions, was also welcomed by the Senate.

The amended Act, which combats money laundering and terrorism financing, authorises the revocation of a licence as a penalty for a breach of obligations in relation to international sanctions. It also allows for public censure to be used for breach of obligations in relation to international sanctions.