The Substance Addiction Bill (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) has had its first reading in Parliament recently, and while it’s a step in the right direction there is still more to be done to ensure it meets the needs of those who need it most.
Human Rights Commission Chief Legal Advisor Janet Anderson Bidois says that while the Commission supports the broad intent of the Bill, some aspects of it go too far and further safeguards are required in order to get the right balance.
The Commission’s submission on the Bill, which can be read here, flagged 10 key areas of concern including:
- The possibility that patients could be held in police cells or other inappropriate facilities while awaiting admission to a “treatment centre.”
- The proposed ability for treating staff to check and withhold incoming and outgoing mail and electronic communications and to remove electronic devices.
- Practical concerns about the lack of time frames for dealing with requests for urgent review of decisions around compulsory status and the ability to access legal advice and clinical second opinions
- Technical drafting concerns about the capacity tests and principles of informed consent
- Arbitrary longer detention periods for people who have been diagnosed with a brain injury
“The compulsory assessment and treatment frameworks should only limit human rights and freedoms to the minimum extent possible: A proportionate approach is required,” Ms Anderson Bidois says.
“The way in which the legislation is implemented in practice is also important and will depend to a large degree on the availability of suitable funding, treatment centres and experienced staff. Inadequate resourcing in this area will affect the potential effectiveness of the legislation and could increase the likelihood of human rights breaches in its application.”
“We will continue to voice our concerns with the Bill and provide constructive feedback to help ensure that the resulting legislation helps those people most in need of this type of support.
Janet Anderson Bidois was interviewed on RNZ’s Nine to Noon show recently. You can listen to the audio here.