Changes to Mental Health Act rights

The information in the rights materials available on this site will soon be out of date because of the following changes:

The Form 4 medical certificate is being replaced by Forms 4.1 and 4.2

The province has now empowered nurse practitioners to examine people to see if they meet the criteria for involuntary hospitalization. 

Before this change, only a physician could authorize involuntary hospitalization. If the physician believed that the person they examined met the criteria for involuntary hospitalization, the physician would complete the Form 4 medical certificate, which would allow a designated facility to keep the person in the facility for up to 48 hours. If a second physician examined the person and believed that they met the criteria for involuntary hospitalization, this physician could complete a second Form 4 medical certificate, which would allow a designated facility to hold the person for up to 1 month.

Now, nurse practitioners as well as physicians can perform the first examination and authorize involuntary hospitalization for up to 48 hours using the new Form 4.1 first medical certificate.

Only a physician can perform a second examination and authorize involuntary hospitalization for up to 1 month, and they would do so using the new Form 4.2 second medical certificate.

The existing Form 4 is still valid until January 31, 2024, and some health authorities are continuing to use it.

Nurse practitioners and physicians are required to write down an explanation of how an involuntary patient meets the four criteria for involuntary hospitalization on these forms. If you’re an involuntary patient and want to understand why you are being held under the Mental Health Act, you can ask your care team to see your Form 4 medical certificates. They might show you Forms 4.1 and 4.2 if they have started using the new system.

Access Pro Bono has changed its phone number for Mental Health Act legal advice

Involuntary patients or their family members can call Access Pro Bono to make an appointment for 30 minutes of free legal advice over the phone about the Mental Health Act from a lawyer. Access Pro Bono used to offer this service through a dedicated phone number for their Mental Health Program Telephone Clinic, but now they have merged it with their Summary Advice Program.

Currently, if you dial the old number for the Mental Health Program Telephone Clinic, the recorded message will give you the new phone number to call for an appointment for summary advice. It’s unclear how long they will keep this recorded message and discontinue the old number completely.

Involuntary patients will soon have the right to ask for rights advice

The Ministry of the Attorney General is establishing a new independent rights advice service, which will be run by the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division (CMHA BC), in partnership with Health Justice, the Community Legal Assistance Society and Métis Nation BC.

When this service launches in fall 2023, involuntary patients will have the right to ask to speak to a rights advisor. The rights advisor will meet with patients to give them information about their rights, answer their rights questions, discuss their options, and help them access their rights, like applying for a review panel hearing or applying for a second medical opinion.

What do these changes mean for the rights materials on this site?

The rights materials on this site: 

  • have the old Access Pro Bono phone number, 
  • refer to Form 4 and not Forms 4.1 and 4.2, and
  • do not tell people of their right to a rights advisor.

Until the independent rights advice service launches, the information in the materials on this site is still valid, although people will be redirected to the new Access Pro Bono if they call the old number. This site remains the only place we’re aware of that offers reliable access to BC Mental Health Act rights information in languages other than English.

We currently have no plans to update the materials, for a few reasons. 

  • First, when the independent rights advice service launches, it will likely develop its own materials with up-to-date information. 
  • Second, the Ministry of Health will also have to update their Form 13, which gives involuntary patients rights information, to include the new right to speak to a rights advisor. If they make that form easy for people to understand, our plain language materials might no longer be needed. 
  • Finally, the materials on this site were developed and translated using research funding that ended in 2018. We have no other sources of funding to update the materials, and this site is maintained thanks to a small annual donation.

Vancouver Coastal Health providers can try asking the Patient Health Education Materials office to update the materials. They have access to the original design files and should be able to make changes to the print resources.

Island Health providers can try contacting Mental Health & Substance Use Services leadership to have the materials updated on the health authority’s intranet.

After January 31, 2024, if there is demand from the community for us to update our rights materials and make them available on this site, we might be able to offer new print materials. We will not have the capacity to update our video. 

We’re grateful to have been part of the effort to make Mental Health Act rights more accessible to more people, and we’re happy to see that the issue is being taken seriously by decision makers in the mental health system.

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