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Public consultation opens for Mental Health Act reform

Members of the public are being asked to speak up and provide feedback as the Government looks to revise the Mental Health Act.

Minister of Health Andrew Little (file photo). Source: Getty

The decision to replace the current act comes after an independent inquiry into New Zealand's mental health and addiction services prompted Health Minister Andrew Little to unveil a 10-year plan for addressing mental health last month. 

He Ara Oranga, the independent report released in 2018, called for legislation that "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".

Little added that Friday's announcement came as a direct reflection from the report, which highlighted a need for a change in current mental health laws. 

"It is clear that the Mental Health Act has resulted in inequality for some people, including Māori, people with different cultural backgrounds, the disabled community, children and young people, and people within the justice system." 

He added that creating a new legislation would allow the Government to create a reformed Mental Health Act that better respects the rights of New Zealanders. 

"Although the Mental Health Act is only needed for a small proportion of people each year, it can have a profound effect on the lives of those who access specialist mental health services, and their whānau." 

First introduced in 1992, Little added that the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act is "well overdue for an update", encouraging all Kiwis to have a say.

"What we need now is for people to speak up and be heard, especially Māori and those who have lived experience of the current Mental Health Act to make sure we get the new legislation right." 

New Zealanders can have their say via the dedicated webpage.