Press Release

Minister O´Malley addresses Mental Health Commission

Minister Tim O´Malley, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, today addressed a meeting of the Mental Health Commission.

The Mental Health Commission was established with effect from 5th April 2002 under the provisions of the Mental Health Act, 2001 “The provisions of the Mental Health Act, 2001 bring Irish legislation in relation to the detention of mentally disordered patients into conformity with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and puts in place mechanisms by which the standards of care and treatment in our mental health services can be monitored, inspected and regulated”, said Minister O´Malley.

The main vehicle for implementing the provisions of the new legislation is the Mental Health Commission, which is an independent statutory body. The Commission is chaired by Dr John Owens, Consultant Psychiatrist and former Clinical Director of the Cavan/Monaghan Mental Health Service. Dr Owens has been to the forefront of innovation in mental health service delivery in recent years with the development, under his leadership, of the home-based treatment model in the Cavan-Monaghan Service. Other members of the Commission include representatives of the medical, nursing and paramedical professions, voluntary bodies and mental health users.

“The primary functions of the Commission are to promote and foster high standards and good practices in the delivery of mental health services and to ensure that the interests of detained persons are protected”, said the Minister.

Each decision by a consultant psychiatrist to detain a patient for psychiatric care and treatment on an involuntary basis and each decision to extend the duration of such detention will have to be referred to the Commission. The Commission will arrange for an independent review of all such decisions by one or more Mental Health Tribunals which will operate under its aegis. The review will focus on two issues- firstly, whether the person concerned is mentally disordered and secondly, whether the correct procedures were carried out in detaining him/her. The Mental Health Tribunal will arrange, on behalf of the detained person, for an independent assessment by a consultant psychiatrist and will operate a legal aid scheme for patients whose detention is being reviewed. A tribunal will be empowered to order the release of a patient if it considers that he/she does not require to be detained involuntarily. The review of the Mental Health Tribunal will be independent, automatic and must be completed within 21 days of the detention/extension order being signed.

The Commission will be the registration authority for all hospitals and in-patient facilities providing psychiatric care and treatment. The existing office of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals will be replaced with the office of the Inspector of Mental Health Services. The Inspector will be required to visit and inspect all approved centres at least once a year. The Minister will be empowered to make regulations specifying the standards to be maintained in all approved centres and these will be enforced by the Inspector. The Inspector’s annual report and review of the mental health services will be published along with the Commission’s annual report.

Minister O´Malley paid tribute to the members of the Commission and congratulated Ms Brid Clarke on her recent appointment as Chief Executive Officer of the Commission and wished her well in her new post.