Regional forensic mental health services are responsible for the care and treatment of special patients and restricted patients within the legislative framework of the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 and the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003.
New Zealand legislation specifically allows for people who have been charged with or convicted of an offence, and who meet certain criteria in terms of their mental illness, to be treated for that condition in hospital. Treatment of mental illness can be an important step in helping an individual to acknowledge and address the reasons for their offending, and in doing so reduce the chances of future offending and significantly improve their wellbeing.
When managing special patients, forensic mental health services are required to balance the rights, treatment and rehabilitative needs of the individual patient against the safety of the public and the concerns of victims.
The clinical management of special patients lies with the patient’s responsible clinician. However, leave and change of legal status require consideration and approval by the Director of Mental Health and (depending on the legal status of the patient) the Minister of Health and/or the Attorney-General. This level of decision-making reflects the seriousness of special patients’ status and the need to ensure that a wide range of factors are considered when making decisions about such patients.
These guidelines are intended to foster consistent decision-making by clinicians, facilitate the administration of matters relating to special patient leave, and provide transparency around the processes used in reaching decisions about special patients.