The Province has introduced legislation that will help people experiencing a mental-health crisis better understand their rights and the supports available to them.
The legislation will allow amendments to the Mental Health Act so that people involuntarily admitted under the act can access support from an independent rights advisor.
“When an individual is involuntarily admitted under the Mental Health Act, we have an obligation to do our best to ensure that person has the ability to understand why this is happening, and an opportunity to present meaningful arguments to challenge that significant decision if they wish to,” said David Eby, Attorney General. “By ensuring that those admitted under the Mental Health Act can get information and help from a free, independent rights advisor, we’re helping all British Columbians access their basic legal rights.”
British Columbia’s Mental Health Act allows people with a severe mental-health disorder to be admitted and treated at designated mental-health facilities to prevent the person’s substantial mental or physical deterioration, or for the person’s own protection, or the protection of others.
Under the act, involuntary patients must be informed of their rights when they are involuntarily admitted, transferred to another designated facility, or when their involuntary status is renewed. As part of this process, involuntary patients will now have the option to meet with a rights advisor.
“Nothing is more important than keeping people safe, and treating people with dignity and respect,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This new, independent rights-advice service protects the rights of people admitted under the Mental Health Act and assures they will be treated fairly.”
The service, which is expected to be available in 2023, will be primarily virtual, using videoconferencing and phones. Some in-person services will be available in certain circumstances. Services will be delivered by a team of independent rights advisors who will provide information and answer questions about rights and options under the Mental Health Act.
The rights-advisor service supports A Pathway to Hope, the Province’s roadmap for building a comprehensive system of mental-health and addictions care that works for everyone in B.C.
- Between 2005-06 and 2017-18, the number of patients admitted involuntarily under B.C.’s Mental Health Act increased by approximately 79%. The increases in concurrent mental-health and substance-use disorders has contributed significantly to this trend.
- Only medical doctors can certify people, and only after seeing and assessing them. The courts or police can assist by apprehending or transporting someone to an involuntary mental-health assessment, but only a doctor can provide the assessment.
- In the 2019 report, Committed to Change, B.C.’s ombudsperson recommended that a rights advisor be put in place to assist involuntary patients under the Mental Health Act.
- The representative for children and youth also recommended a rights advice and advocacy service for children and youth in their 2021 report, Detained.
To learn more about the Mental Health Act, see the Guide to the Mental Health Act:
To learn about A Pathway to Hope, the B.C. government’s vision for mental-health and addictions care in B.C.: