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Mental involuntary treatment at home instead of hospital proposed

Patients with mental health problems who have to undergo involuntary treatment will be able to remain in the community rather than in a hospital, under a new law.

For the first time, involuntary treatment – that is forced upon patients for their benefit – will be able to take place at the patient's home if the patient is deemed fit.

This is one of the major changes in the second draft of the much-awaited Mental Health Act that was launched to stakeholders this morning during a business breakfast.

Dr Ray Xerri, the director of special initiatives within the department of health, gave an overview of the draft that will now be discussed in Parliament to become law.

The law speaks about ensuring that patients know their rights and that they are safeguarded. It appoints a commissioner to ensure rights are respected and care plans – that have to be drawn up for each patient – are respected.

The patient-centred law gives the patient the right to be involved in drawing up the care plan. It reduces the time of involuntary observation time from 28 days to 10 days after which time a decision on the patient's treatment must be taken.

It obliges the courts to inform the commissioner when a person was interdicted, solving problems that used to arise from the lack of communication.

The law also states, for the first time, that social cases can not be kept in mental health hospitals.

Parliamentary Secretary for community care Mario Galea said the new law looked beyond the mental health problem and focused on the person's rights and needs.

The Prime Minister's wife, Kate Gonzi, closed the event and said the new law was a "ray of hope" in the field of mental health.

The new law will replace the antiquated 1976 legislation, based on the 1959 British Mental Health Act.

In 2007 the Health Ministry issued the first draft for consultation but the law has yet to be enacted despite promises and missed deadlines. The 2007 draft has since been amended and today stakeholders finally had access to the final draft that was approved by Cabinet in April.

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