New legislation governing the provision of treatment, care and rehabilitation of people with mental illness in South Australia came into effect 1 July 2010.

Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse John Hill said the Mental Health Act 2009 underpins the reform of South Australia’s mental health services.

“The new Act supports mental health experts and psychiatrists across the state to intervene quickly to help patients before their condition deteriorates and give them the best chance of getting better.”

“This Government is absolutely committed to delivering better services to South Australians suffering mental illness, investing over $300 million to help build a modern, humane system which treats, supports and protects patients and their carers.” Minister Hill said.

The Act allows better communication between mental health experts, patients, carers and families.

“Information that helps the care and treatment of a person with a mental illness can now be shared with their carer if a mental health expert believes it is in the best interest of the patient.

“The sharing of appropriate clinical information gives carers a better understanding of the treatment their patient is receiving and the issues they may be facing.” Minister Hill said.

The Act will also allow for the use of audio-visual conferencing facilities to enable mental health experts and psychiatrists to assess patients in rural and remote areas.

Patients will have treatment and care plans and their physical and mental health will be monitored and regularly reviewed.

South Australia also now has its first Chief Psychiatrist, a new position created under the Act. Dr Margaret Honeyman takes up the position from today.

“A significant part of the role of Chief Psychiatrist is to safeguard the rights of people accessing mental health services in South Australia and to monitor the use of the Act,” Dr Honeyman said.

“This includes providing the Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse with a comprehensive annual report regarding the status of mental health services throughout the state.

“The new Act also provides for a Community Visitor Scheme which will start in June 2011, and will enable community visitors to inspect treatment centres and act as advocates for patients.”

The new Act also introduces legislation specifically aimed at the special circumstances of children.

“Children will be cared for and treated separately from other patients to take their different needs into account,” Dr Honeyman said.

“For example, the new Act provides safeguards for children and young people in the form of shorter orders, with more frequent reviews.”

A copy of the Mental Health Act 2009 can be downloaded from the SA Health website