Compulsory treatment and assessment orders

Compulsory treatment and assessment orders

The Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) provides the legal framework for the assessment of people who appear to have a mental illness and the treatment of those who are assessed as having a mental illness.

Although the mental health principles state that such assessment and treatment should be provided in the least restrictive way possible, and preferably on a voluntary basis (see section 11(1)(a) and (d)), the Act authorises compulsory assessment and treatment in certain circumstances, provided the relevant criteria are met and the process is followed. These provisions are set out in Part 4 of the Act.

Covered in this section

This section covers:

  • an overview of the relevant criteria, processes and timelines that apply to the making of compulsory assessment and treatment orders, and the mechanisms for a person to challenge such orders
  • practical advice and tips to enable you to identify whether these processes were followed and criteria properly applied
  • practical advice and tips on advising your client about their options if they are unhappy or concerned about being made subject to a compulsory order.

You should also be aware that even once a person is subject to a compulsory treatment order, the treating team must also follow certain steps before compulsory treatment (without consent) can be given.

Process for compulsory assessment and treatment

The making of orders for compulsory assessment and treatment involves three key steps:

Assessment order

This order can be made by a doctor or mental health practitioner who has examined a person and determined they meet the assessment criteria. The assessment order enables an authorised (or other) psychiatrist to examine that person to determine whether they meet the criteria for compulsory treatment. For an inpatient assessment order, it also provides authority for the person to be taken to and detained in a designated mental health service.

The duration of the order will depend on the type of order and the circumstances, such as whether the person is an inpatient or in the community and when they were brought to hospital (s. 34 of the Act).

Read more about Assessment orders.

Temporary treatment order

This order can be made by an authorised psychiatrist after they have examined a person subject to an assessment order and determined they meet the treatment criteria. The order enables a person to be given mental health services (including compulsory treatment), even if they do not agree with it. The order may be a community or inpatient order and lasts no more than 28 days.

Read more about Temporary treatment orders.

Treatment order

This order can be made by the Mental Health Tribunal, for a person subject to a temporary treatment order (or treatment order). Once an authorised psychiatrist applies for a treatment order, the tribunal must conduct a hearing. It can only make an order if it is satisfied that all four treatment criteria are satisfied. It must also decide the type (community or inpatient) and duration of the order (maximum time limits apply).

A compulsory patient is someone who is subject to an assessment order (or court assessment order), a temporary treatment order, or a treatment order (s. 3).

Read more about Treatment orders and The Mental Health Tribunal.

Important safeguards

  • A person who is subject to a temporary treatment order or treatment order may apply to the Mental Health Tribunal at any time for a hearing to determine if they still meet the criteria for compulsory treatment (s. 60).
  • Under s. 61, at any stage if a person no longer meets all four treatment criteria, the authorised psychiatrist must revoke the order, whether a temporary treatment order or treatment order. The person can ask the authorised psychiatrist to assess them for this reason.

If any of the above orders are made, the person must be given a copy of the order and a statement of rights relevant to the particular order made.

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