Apprehension and transport to a designated mental health service

Apprehension and transport to a designated mental health service

The making of (or variation to) an inpatient assessment order, temporary treatment order or treatment order gives an authorised person authority to take a person subject to such an order to a designated mental health service – such as a public hospital’s psychiatric unit – and detain them there.

An authorised person is a police officer, ambulance paramedic, doctor from a mental health service or mental health practitioner, such as a member of the CAT team.

Likewise, if a person is determined to be absent without leave from an inpatient unit, then the authorised psychiatrist can arrange for the person’s apprehension and transport and these apprehension and transport provisions apply (s. 352).

Powers of authorised person

Section 353 gives an authorised person the power to:

  • enter premises (including with reasonable force and bodily restraint in certain circumstances)
  • apprehend the person
  • take them to a designated mental health service.

These powers can only be exercised for the purpose of taking the person to the designated service – a person cannot simply be apprehended without being transported to a service.

Right to search, seize and detain

Sections 354–356 give the authorised person powers to search a person if they suspect they are carrying anything that:

  • presents a danger to health and safety of the person or another person, or
  • could be used to assist the person to escape.

They also have the power to seize and detain things found in a search, in certain circumstances and in accordance with particular safeguards, for the person’s privacy and dignity. A person can also be sedated in certain circumstances so they can be transported safely.

Practice tips

  • An authorised person must consider the mental health principles when apprehending and transporting a person to hospital, in particular that services are provided in the least restrictive way possible (s. 11(1)(a)) and their rights and dignity are respected and promoted (s. 11(1)(e)).
  • The Department of Health and Human Services’ Protocol for the transport of people with mental illness 2014 provides guidance on appropriate transport of people with mental illness.
  • The time a person is received at the hospital dictates by what time the psychiatrist must assess them. An inpatient assessment order will expire 24 hours after their receipt at the hospital and they must be assessed within that time. If they meet the criteria for a temporary treatment order, the order must be made before the assessment order expires. Read more about Assessment orders.
  • If your client lives in a remote or regional area, it is worth taking note of the manner with which they were transported to hospital. This may have impacted upon their presentation when they were assessed for the temporary treatment order.

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