Mental Health Act news roundup

The cover of the Government of BC's plan, A Pathway to Hope

BC’s Mental Health Act has been in the news a few times over the past several weeks. Here are some rights-related highlights:

Should the Mental Health Act be used to detain youth with substance use disorder?

At a BC coroner’s inquest into the overdose death of 16-year-old Elliot Eurchuk, pediatrician Dr. Tom Warshawski testified that he supports using the Mental Health Act to treat young people for substance use disorder against their will. Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.’s former provincial health officer, told the inquest that there’s not enough evidence that involuntary treatment would prevent deaths and improve health outcomes. Continue readingMental Health Act news roundup”

New Mental Health Act video for youth in BC

Promotional poster for the youth video. The video's main character is shown, along with questions "Why do you need to be here?" "Do you have a say?" "What do you tell your friends?" The poster says that the video is available at bcyouthmentalhealthact.ca.

BC Children’s Hospital has launched an interactive video to help youth and their families better understand what it means to be certified under the Mental Health Act. The video explains:

  • what the Mental Health Act is,
  • what the criteria are for involuntary hospitalization,
  • what rights a young involuntary patient has under the Mental Health Act,
  • how long a young patient might stay in hospital,
  • what happens after decertification,
  • what roles various healthcare providers play in the young patient’s care and treatment, and
  • how a young patient can participate in their own recovery by expressing their opinions and asking their treatment team questions.

Continue reading “New Mental Health Act video for youth in BC”

Will forcing health authorities to complete all Mental Health Act forms help patients better understand their rights?

Poor form completion rates

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?

According to the Mental Health Act, when a person is admitted as an involuntary patient under a medical certificate (Form 4):

  • They’re supposed to learn their rights by being read and given Form 13.
  • They’re supposed to nominate a near relative to notify about their hospitalization, using Form 15.
  • 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?

I don’t believe they will. Continue reading “Will forcing health authorities to complete all Mental Health Act forms help patients better understand their rights?”

Second medical opinions under BC’s Mental Health Act

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.

A cartoon showing a doctor examining a patient on a bed.
Continue reading “Second medical opinions under BC’s Mental Health Act

What’s a near relative?

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.

Cartoon showing two people holding hands outside of the hospital doors.
Illustration by Jonathon Dalton

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?”