Wording changes in mental health act; NDP says beds still closing

Alberta’s health minister says new legislation will make it easier to force those with mental problems to get the help they need.

EDMONTON — Alberta’s health minister says new legislation will make it easier to force those with mental problems to get the help they need.

Ron Liepert says it’s critical that individuals with serious and persistent mental disorders get both immediate and ongoing care.

He says amendments to the Mental Health Act allow for early intervention when individuals need mental health treatment and ongoing care after they return to their communities.

Health ministry spokeswoman Donna Schuhltz says the act originally required the person to be “presenting a danger to self or others.”

That wording is now changed to “likely to cause harm to self or others.”

NDP politician Rachel Notley says changing the words won’t matter because there aren’t enough places to treat the mentally ill.

“I think the Mental Health Act changes are sort of an example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing,” said Notley.

“On one hand they’re moving forward with a decision to essentially increase the demand for mental health treatment beds, while at the same time, they’re cutting the supply.”

Schuhltz said if people suspect someone needs immediate mental help they can make a case to a physician, go to an emergency room, call police, or plead their case to a judge who can apply for a warrant of apprehension under the Mental Health Act.

Apprehended people would likely wind up at the Royal Alexandra or Misericordia hospitals or Alberta Hospital Edmonton, she said.

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