New law and terminology defines mental illness in Victoria with significant changes to the legal framework that assesses and treats people with a mental illness. The Mental Health Tribunal is the independent statutory tribunal providing the safeguard for the making of compulsory treatment orders. The new law seeks to minimise compulsory mental health treatment and ensure that people with a mental illness are supported to make or participate in decisions about their assessment, treatment and recovery.

Contributor

Lucy Carter

Lawyer, Mental Health Legal Centre

The Chief Psychiatrist

Last updated

1 July 2020

The Chief Psychiatrist is appointed under the Public Administration Act 2004 (Vic) and is given various functions and powers under the MHA 2014. Under the MHA 2014, the Chief Psych­iatrist’s role is limited to:

  • providing clinical leadership and expert clinical advice to MHSPs in Victoria; and
  • promoting continuous improvement in the quality and safety of mental health services; and
  • promoting the rights of people receiving mental health services; and
  • providing advice to the Minister of Mental Health and the Secretary of the DHHS about the provision of such mental health services.

The Chief Psychiatrist has a range of functions under section 121 of the MHA 2014, including developing and publishing standards, guidelines and practice directions for the provision of mental health services and assisting MHSPs to comply with these; monitoring mental health services to improve quality and safety; and analysing data and publishing information about mental health services and treatment, including in the annual report. Although it does not have a complaints function, the Chief Psychiatrist can, under section 122 of the MHA 2014, conduct an investigation of a mental health service where the health, safety or wellbeing of a person is or was endangered. It can also give directions to MHSPs in some cases.

The Chief Psychiatrist has a range of powers to enable them to perform these functions, including powers to: enter MHSP premises (s 123(1) MHA 2014); examine or inspect anything and take copies of documents (s 123(2)); and direct that evidence be produced or questions answered (s 124). Staff at the MHSP must also provide the Chief Psychiatrist or any authorised officer acting under their direction with reasonable assistance they require (s 125).

The MHA 2014 also requires MHSPs to report to the Chief Psychiatrist the use of restrictive interventions on mental health wards, performance of ECT and neurosurgery, and reportable deaths.

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