Repealing and replacing the Mental Health Act

Updating mental health legislation in Aotearoa to reflect human-rights based models of care and recognise the spirit and principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

He Ara Oranga, the report of the independent Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, recognised that the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 (the Mental Health Act) has not kept pace with the shift towards a recovery and wellbeing approach to care, and has never been comprehensively reviewed. The report made the following recommendation:

‘Repeal and replace the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 so that it reflects a human rights-based approach, promotes supported decision-making, aligns with the recovery and wellbeing model of mental health, and provides measures to minimise compulsory or coercive treatment.’

How this will be achieved

Government has accepted and prioritised the recommendation to the repeal and replace the Mental Health Act.

Since 2019, we have been working on immediate, short-term improvements under the current legislation, alongside work to understand what issues need to be addressed in creating new mental health legislation for New Zealand. These activities are reflected in the three work streams below.

  1. Improving service user experiences under the current Mental Health Act
  2. Initial amendments to the current Mental Health Act to better protect people’s rights and improve safety
    • Bill introduced March 2021, currently being considered by the Health Committee
    • Public submissions closed 19 May 2021
    • Health Committee report back to the House is due 6 October 2021
  3. The full repeal and replacement of the MHA Act
    • Principles to guide development of new legislation approved by Government in 2019
    • Review of previous related consultations, academic research, and international examples to understand key issues and potential options for new legislation
    • Public consultation in 2021 to inform new legislation

What is the process?

We have heard why change is needed, and the next step is to get clear direction for what mental health legislation in New Zealand should look like.

We will be talking to people with lived experience, whānau, iwi, people working in the sector, clinicians, specialist services, communities, interest groups, and the wider public to gather information and feedback to inform the design of the new legislation.

A public consultation document is intended to be released later in the year, but some initial topics and questions for discussion are:

  • recognising Te Tiriti o Waitangi in mental health legislation
  • rethinking compulsory mental health treatment
  • taking a human rights approach
  • capacity and decision-making
  • supporting people to make decisions
  • seclusion, restraint, and restrictive practices
  • protecting and monitoring people’s rights.

How to get involved

Further updates on next steps and opportunities to be involved, including the publication of the discussion document and schedules for public meetings, will be posted on this webpage.

Please subscribe to the Mental Health and Addiction Directorate newsletter to know when new updates are available at Updates from the Mental Health and Addiction directorate.

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