The board has seen tremendous shifts over the past couple of years, with a new chair implementing a restructuring plan, a move from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of the Attorney General, and a corresponding physical move to a new office.
This year’s annual report offers a glimpse of the progress and effects of this restructuring. Here are a few highlights, along with some of my reactions.
In the recently released report, Committed to Change, the BC Office of the Ombudsperson detailed disturbing findings that involuntary patients aren’t consistently told about their rights under the Mental Health Act. Further, family care partners aren’t always told that their loved ones have been detained. These stories are appalling, but will enforcing better record keeping prevent these scenarios from happening?
Their care team is supposed to send Form 16 to that near relative. Form 16 tells the near relative that the person (a) has been detained and (b) has rights under the Mental Health Act. This form is supposed to be sent or given to the near relative immediately after the person has been admitted.
The BC Office of the Ombudsperson found:
Form 13 in only 49% of patient files,
Form 15 in only 43% of patient files, and
Form 16 in only 32% of patient files.
In response to these poor compliance rates, the Office of the Ombudsperson issued this recommendation:
Recommendation 9: By June 30, 2019, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions work together with the health authorities to establish clear and consistent provincial standards aimed at achieving 100 percent compliance with the involuntary admissions procedures under the Mental Health Act through the timely and appropriate completion of all required forms.
In other words, these three forms should appear in 100% of patient files. But will mandating 100% compliance solve the problem of patients and family care partners not knowing patients’ rights?
In Committed to Change, a report detailing the failure of the mental health system to uphold the rights of involuntary patients hospitalized under the Mental Health Act, the BC Ombudsperson issued 24 recommendations “to ensure the rights of people with serious mental illness are respected and public confidence in our mental health system is enhanced.” (BC Ombudsperson 2019, p. 3)
One of the recommendations is that, “By March 31, 2020, the Ministry of Health update and reissue the Guide to the Mental Health Act to incorporate the changes made arising from this report and other changes.” (BC Ombudsperson 2019, p. 98)
When I interviewed people who experienced involuntary hospitalization (certification) about their information needs, some of them told me that, when they choose to exercise their rights, they’d like more information about what comes next.
What happens after you hand in Form 7 to ask for a review panel hearing? Or what happens after you hand in Form 11 to ask for a second medical opinion?
Involuntary patients over the age of 16 have the right to ask for a second medical opinion from a doctor who’s not on their treatment team. My interviews with former involuntary patients and with clinicians seem to show that both groups are confused about how this right works, so this post aims to answer some of the most common questions about it.
The review board intends for these documents to “ensure that a patient is given a procedurally fair hearing that also proceeds expeditiously.” Many of the polices are meant to streamline the review panel hearings: they encourage both case presenter and patient (or patient representative) to come to the hearings prepared to give the review panel the evidence they need to make their decision. But several of the new rules also support patients’ rights, and this post will highlight some of those points.
Involuntary patients have the right to ask for a hearing with a review panel if they want to challenge their certification. To do so, they (or someone on their behalf) must fill out Form 7.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of the Attorney General, together with the Ministry of Health and the Mental Health Review Board, revised Form 7, partly in response to the Community Legal Assistance Society’s report Operating in Darkness, which was critical of many aspects of the Mental Health Act and how it was implemented in practice. In May, the Mental Health Review Board announced “that after several months of consultations, our new Form 7 ‘Application for Review Panel Hearing’ has received Cabinet approval by way of an Order in Council approved on May 15, 2018.” Continue reading “A revised Form 7—better for patient rights?”
One of the questions we get most often is “How can family and friends help involuntary patients exercise their rights?” We’ll cover that topic in more depth in a future blog post, but before we can get there, we have to lay the groundwork by clarifying what a near relative is.
The rest of this blog post speaks to patients.
Choosing a near relative
If you’re admitted as an involuntary patient (certified), a member of the staff, usually a nurse, will ask you to choose someone to be your near relative. This near relative will be informed: Continue reading “What’s a near relative?”