NSW Parliamentary committee Portfolio Committee No. 2 – Health has decided to conduct an Inquiry into Mental Health in NSW. This follows the findings of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s mental health system as well as multiple expressions of dissatisfaction from consumers of current mental health practices within NSW. There has been public exposure of vulnerable members of our society being mistreated, disrespected and even killed following state intervention. The submission deadline for this Inquiry is the 6th of September 2023. You can find more information here. Submissions have closed. You can view other submissions here. And the Terms of Reference here.
Justice Actions Submission to the inquiry
Justice Action has prepared five documents for submission to the inquiry focusing on areas of mental health service that have been identified as inadequate within outpatient and community health care services within NSW. These papers focus on the provision of appropriate services to consumers in a way that values their respect and achieves outcomes in their best interest.
The Health industry leverages the power of forced medication as an easy way to control “difficult” people despite rigorous legal restrictions on its use. This approach disrespects the entitlement in a democracy to be different and can result in significant side effects for the individual. This paper presents the legal restriction on such a serious assault on personal integrity.
Our paper puts forward the recommendation that the NSW Chief Psychiatrist’s Communique of 2014 is withdrawn and replaced by a clearer set of definitions consistent with the law. These revised definitions should serve to better respect the autonomy of consumer’s lives, namely through enabling them to make their own decisions regarding treatment. It also recommends that CTO’s only be used as a last resort and funding for independent lawyers be provided to those wishing to appeal an order.
Justice Action has identified that community treatment orders infringe on an individual’s autonomy, freedom and self-determination. It is a restrictive form of compulsory treatment that can potentially be seen as a form of detention that significantly impedes a person’s life. We instead propose that alternatives such as access to consumer workers and the option of establishing an advance directive that should be considered in place to reduce social stigma of mental illness and allow consumers to have a sense of autonomy in their recovery.
The current crisis intervention practices in NSW fail to treat consumers going through mental health crises with the compassion and respect they deserve, instead employing ill-trained police as first responders often resulting in the mistreatment and even death of consumers. This paper proposes an amendment to the NSW crisis intervention practices, stopping the mobilisation of police as first responders and instead implementing de-escalation techniques involving mental health professionals and consumer workers, similarly to overseas models.