BC has changed the Mental Health Act in a monumental way in an effort to help get people suffering a mental-health crisis the care they need quickly.
Prior to February 23rd, those dealing with a mental-health crisis would have to go to a hospital’s emergency room to see a doctor before being admitted. Now, nurse practitioners have the ability to involuntarily admit patients undergoing a crisis.
The aim of this Mental Health Act amendment is to reduce wait times in emergency rooms and speed up access to care that is critical in these types of situations.
“When a person is in a mental-health crisis, they must be met with timely, compassionate and appropriate care,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.
“By enabling nurse practitioners to assess patients, we are reducing the pressure on emergency department physicians and making sure that people in distress are able to get help faster.”
“This is an important additional tool in our toolbox as we continue building an integrated system of care that works for everyone.”
The province says that with these changes, the mental-health facility director will have the ability to admit someone in crisis for 48 hours if a nurse practitioner or a doctor believes they need to be admitted.
“Nurse practitioners are critical to our health-care system, particularly for the delivery of care to rural and Indigenous communities, seniors and people requiring mental-health and addictions care,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.
“Allowing nurse practitioners to complete medical certificates for involuntary admission of individuals to mental-health facilities will prevent delays in access to mental-health care for many people in BC.”
Oftentimes, police officers are the first responders to individuals suffering a mental health crisis and they must bring the individual to the hospital for treatment.
In addition to the above, this new legislation will allow police officers more time to focus on law enforcement rather than waiting around in hospital emergency rooms for the individual they brought in to receive treatment.
“Police officers are often the first to respond to mental-health calls, ensuring a safe response that protects all those involved,” says VicPD’s Chief Const. Del Manak.
“These changes are a positive step forward for police departments across BC. Not only will officers now be able to transfer care of an individual to hospitals in a more timely manner, they will be able to return to the community much sooner to focus on addressing crime and ensuring public safety.”
The province says that the Mental Health Act amendment is effective immediately, however some work must take place for the services it renders the public to become available.
To ensure physicians, nurse practitioners and mental-health facility directors are familiar with the new amendment, a transition period will be in place until January 31st, 2024.