Ann Jorgensen1, Charlotte Jones2
1 Mental Health Legal Centre, PO Box 12365 A’Beckett Street, VIC, 3008, Ann.Jorgensen@mhlc.org.au
2 Mental Health Legal Centre, PO Box 12365 A’Beckett Street, VIC, 3008
For the first time in Victoria the Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) gives a form of legal recognition to advance planning for people with mental illness. The advance statement provisions provide an opportunity for a person’s treatment preferences to be recorded and taken into account in the event that they are subject to compulsory mental health treatment.
Though the legislation has been in effect for two years advance statements are yet to make a significant impact in the mental health sector. Consumers may be unaware of advance statements or sceptical about the benefits of making one. Mental health services often lack the time and resources to encourage and assist consumers to make them.
The provisions themselves create a fairly weak model with broad override powers and limited avenues of enforcement. There is also minimal information available to assess the impact that an advance statement has on episodes of compulsory treatment.
The Mental Health Legal Centre’s Advance Statement Project aims to increase the uptake of advance statements and to assess their effectiveness in improving individual’s recovery journeys. Regular legal clinics have been established at a number of mental health services to provide independent advice and assist people to make advance statements. These clinics are supported by a comprehensive community legal education program targeting both consumers and practitioners.
The project maintains regular contact with clients once their advance statements are completed to track the impact that the advance statement has on future treatment (whether voluntary or compulsory).
This presentation will reflect on the first year of the project in examining the role that advance statements can play in supporting individual decision-making and improving outcomes.
Ann is the Principal Solicitor at the Mental Health Legal Centre overseeing two health justice partnership projects – one involving advance statements and the other delivering legal services to clients of the Royal District Nursing Service Homeless Person’s Project. She has a background in community law and legal policy. She is currently completing a Master of Laws at the University of Melbourne. In 2015 Ann undertook an internship at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France.