New N.W.T. Mental Health Act passes 3rd reading in legislature

The Northwest Territories' new Mental Health Act mandates more follow-up care for patients when they return to their home communities from hospitals in the regional centres.

New act won't come into effect for a year

A standing committee of four MLAs were in Inuvik in August, holding a public consultation on the proposed N.W.T. Mental Health Act. The act passed third reading in the Legislative Assembly yesterday. (David Thurton/CBC)

The Northwest Territories has a new law governing the care of people with mental health issues. 

MLAs gave the Mental Health Act its third and final reading yesterday in the Legislative Assembly.

The act was finalized after a committee of MLAs visited six communities across the territory to gather feedback.

The territory's health minister says an important part of the new legislation is providing more follow-up care for patients when they return to their home communities from hospitals in the regional centres.

"Some people might be able to be supported in the communities simply by a visiting nurse on a regular basis for their medications. Others might need significantly more before they can go back into the community," said Minister Glen Abernethy.

"We need to find a way to transition those individuals from a centre like Yellowknife back to their community with the supports they need."

The act will also establish three-member panels to decide on a variety of matters, including whether a patient is mentally competent to make treatment decisions, and whether a doctor can provide treatment to a patient who has refused that treatment. The panels will include one lawyer, one medical doctor and one layperson.

Abernethy doesn't know how much the new approach will cost, but he says it will require money for new positions, training and creating the panels.

That funding, and the work to implement the act, will fall to the next government after the territorial election in November.

The new Mental Health Act will replace the existing, outdated legislation, but it won't come into effect for about a year.


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