Repealing and replacing the Mental Health Act


Call for expressions of interest to be a member of an Expert Advisory Group

Can you help us test and refine proposals for new mental health legislation?

Public consultation on repealing and replacing the Mental Health Act has closed, and the Ministry of Health is now working on policy proposals for new legislation.

To help us with this, we are calling for expressions of interest from people to become members of an Expert Advisory Group.

This small group will help to test and refine policy proposals for new legislation to inform our advice to the Minister of Health.

The group will ensure that proposals accurately reflect and balance the feedback received through public consultation, will make a meaningful difference for tāngata whaiora and their whānau, and will work in practice.

We are looking for people who understand the Mental Health Act and how it works. It is our intention that several members of the Expert Advisory Group are Māori, and several will have Lived Experience.

Your expertise could come from a range of perspectives, including personal or whānau lived experience, experience as a service provider, or legal or academic expertise.

We are particularly keen to hear from people who identify with one or more priority population groups, including Māori, Pacific peoples, Asian, migrant and ethnic communities, whānau, youth, rainbow communities, and people with disabilities.

Group members will need to take part in regular online meetings from April to August 2022. There will be one to three meetings each month, with each meeting lasting around three hours. Group members would also need to read papers and prepare feedback to discuss before each meeting.

Group members will be paid for their time preparing for and attending meetings.

If you are interested in being a member of our Expert Advisory Group, see the information in this expression of interest form (Word, 59KB).

Please complete the form and send it to [email protected] by Tuesday 29 March.

Why we are repealing and replacing the Mental Health Act

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 accepted the recommendation to 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 reported back to the House on 14 September 2021
  3. The full repeal and replacement of the Mental Health 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 late 2021 and early 2022 to inform new legislation.

Public consultation closed on 28 January

We are transforming Aotearoa New Zealand’s approach to mental health and addiction, so that people can get the support they need, when, where, and how they need it. Ensuring we have fit-for-purpose legislation is one part of this transformation.

New mental health legislation can support pae ora (healthy futures) by supporting tino rangatiratanga (self-determination), enhancing mana, protecting rights, encouraging whānau involvement, strengthening the recognition of Te Tiriti obligations, and promoting Māori cultural needs and values.

Most people in Aotearoa New Zealand who access specialist mental health and addiction services will not be placed under the current Mental Health Act - in 2019, less than six percent of people using specialist mental health and addiction services were placed under the Act.

Although the current Mental Health Act is only used for a small proportion of people each year, it has a big impact on the lives of those who do experience it, and their family and whānau. 

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.

All the submissions have been shared with an external, independent company. They will consolidate and analyse all the responses we receive to guide us as we develop new mental health legislation.

The research company will be providing the Ministry of Health with a thematic analysis of all the submissions, and individual submissions will not be made public.

The Minister of Health is due to report back to Cabinet with policy proposals for new legislation by the end of 2022. Once the Government has agreed to the policy for new legislation, a Bill will be created and will go through the Parliamentary processes.

This process includes select committee consideration when people will have the opportunity to comment on the Bill before it becomes law. For more information on all of the steps involved, please see the webpage How a Bill becomes law.

What was included in the consultation?

The discussion document has been divided into nine parts. Parts One and Two give background information about the current Mental Health Act, reasons for repealing and replacing it, and how new legislation fits into mental health and addiction services.

Parts Three to Nine each focus on specific topics for discussion. The topics covered are:

  • Part 3 - embedding Te Tiriti and addressing Māori cultural needs
  • Part 4 - defining the purpose of mental health legislation, including considering a human rights approach and whether compulsory mental health treatment should ever be allowed
  • Part 5 - defining why, when and how compulsory mental health treatment, if permitted, might be appropriate
  • Part 6 - making sure people are able to use appropriate tools to support them to make decisions about their care and treatment
  • Part 7 - considering the use, or prohibition, of seclusion, restraint, or other restrictive practices
  • Part 8 - addressing the needs of specific populations: people from different cultures, family and whānau, children and youth, disabled people, and people from the justice system
  • Part 9 - ensuring people’s rights are protected and monitored.

Why this is important

We can create new mental health legislation that respects the rights of individuals, family and whānau, recognises Te Tiriti o Waitangi and improves equity. 

The legislation should be a last resort for people in a vulnerable and distressed state. The care and treatment provided through legislation should be delivered in a way that recognises a person’s strengths, and new legislation should promote the safety of people, whānau and communities.

There are many things to consider, and we need your help in shaping the future of mental health legislation in New Zealand.

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