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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (24 October) . . Page.. 1944 ..

MRS CARNELL (continuing):

... for the duration of the proposed interim mental health legislation, a formal monitoring mechanism be established whereby the Government reports to the Standing Committee on Social Policy every six months on the need for and provision of services, including legal services, for people with a mental dysfunction.

The legislation - comprising the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act 1994, Crimes (Amendment) Act 1994 and Mental Health (Consequential Provisions) Act 1994 - was gazetted on 6 February 1995. This legislation is concerned only with the treatment and care of people with a mental dysfunction or psychiatric illness.

The aims of the legislation are to set out the rights of mentally dysfunctional people and to ensure that those rights are upheld. Its objectives are to provide treatment, care, rehabilitation and protection of mentally dysfunctional persons in a manner that is least restrictive of their human rights; to provide for mentally dysfunctional persons to receive treatment, care, rehabilitation and protection voluntarily and, in certain circumstances, involuntarily; to protect the dignity and self-respect of mentally dysfunctional persons; to ensure that mentally dysfunctional persons have the right to receive treatment, care, rehabilitation and protection in an environment that is the least restrictive and intrusive, having regard to their needs and the need to protect other persons from physical and emotional harm; and to facilitate access by mentally dysfunctional persons to services and facilities appropriate for the provision of treatment, care, rehabilitation and protection.

The general manager of Woden Valley Hospital, Mr Glen Gaskill, has kept the Social Policy Committee informed of the progress of the early stages of the implementation of this important Act, and shortly I will be forwarding to the Social Policy Committee a detailed report. The Mental Health Tribunal and the associated procedures and processes have been in operation for only a short time. The Act in its infancy of operation has highlighted a number of areas that deserve further attention. These mainly relate to the complexity of some cases; the need for balance between demand for crisis support and ongoing support; and straining resources and facilities across various services to care for those clients with complex needs. Problems have been experienced when a client has a multifaceted disorder requiring a cross-service approach to their management. The complexity of their needs places a strain on the available resources within the mental health framework and related services. A recent case before the Supreme Court highlighted the difficulties of clients with multifaceted problems and the problems in operating within a small jurisdiction with limited flexibility in service alternatives and facilities.

Generally, only a small percentage of situations where people become involved within the mental health framework encounter difficulties, the majority being resolved quickly and effectively. However, the difficult cases tend to be resource intensive and remain foremost in people's minds, fuelling concern and causing considerable contention amongst services, the community and people close to the issues. Due to ignorance and misunderstanding, people with mental illness often experience rejection and discrimination rather than the assistance, understanding, support and acceptance that are needed.

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