Government is taking another step toward mental health reformthrough new legislation introduced today, Sept. 29, by HealthMinister Angus MacIsaac. The new Mental Health Act updates 30-year-old legislation,reflects current practices and is consistent with other mentalhealth legislation across the country. “This is another building block in improving the mental health ofNova Scotians,” said Mr. MacIsaac. “Most people have the abilityto make their own treatment decisions, however, this act speaksfor those who cannot.” The proposed act will provide the legal framework for mentalhealth professionals to intervene on behalf of individuals wholack the capacity to determine their need for treatment. It willensure that this is done without unduly interfering with civilrights and liberties. The bill introduces substitute decision-makers who will beinvolved in all treatment decisions when necessary. In addition,leave certificates are being introduced. These certificates allowpatients to be gradually reintroduced into the community, helpingthem reintegrate in a planned way. Also included in the act are community treatment orders (CTOs),for those who have a history of repeated involuntary admissions.CTOs will be available where assertive treatment teams are inplace. The CTOs will help people maintain wellness and stabilityand assist in early detection of recurring illness, therebyresulting in shorter hospital stays. “The Schizophrenia Society applauds government for includingcommunity treatment orders in the new legislation. Takingleadership on this is not easy, but through partnership,government and community organizations can work toward the goalof early detection and treatment,” said Hugh Bennett, executivedirector of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia. “This willhelp people, particularly those persons with schizophrenia, toget the support they need within their community, while, at thesame time, expanding community education and awareness.” Capital Health has also expressed support for the newlegislation. “It is good to see legislation dealing specifically with mentalhealth issues. Previously, mental health was addressed underlegislation embedded in the Hospitals Act,” said Louise Bradley,director, mental health and forensic services, Capital Health.”We provided input and are glad that the province is addressingthe issue of CTOs as other provinces have.” The bill will serve all Nova Scotians with mental disorders,including children, youth and adults, who are temporarily unableto make their own treatment decisions. “The new Mental Health Act, along with Department of Health’smental health standards, will allow us to better meet the needsof children and youth,” said Susan Mercer, interim vicepresident, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Program, IWK HealthCentre. “This is another step that will improve how we worktogether with families toward better mental health care in thecommunity.” In addition, the bill introduces independent rights advisors whowill operate at arm’s length from government and the districthealth authorities/IWK Health Centre to advise people who areinvoluntarily admitted, placed on a leave certificate or acommunity treatment order. The bill was created after careful review of the currentprovincial legislation, legislation in other provinces, and in-depth consultation with legal experts, and mental healthprofessionals, advocates and consumers. The first step in mentalhealth reform was the development of comprehensive mental healthstandards, announced in 2003.