Mental Health Act comes into force today and allows 46 undocumented people to be released

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The new Mental Health Law, which ends the automatic extension of the hospitalization of incompetent people and allows involuntary treatment, comes into force today, already allowing the release of 46 incompetent people, as long as the courts authorize it.

The law was promulgated on July 10 by the President of the Republic, who pointed out that it “lacked densification of some legal concepts and figures”.

The new legislation aims to change the paradigm of the approach to people in need of mental health care and defines that, after serving the sentence for a crime to which they have been convicted, the unfit must be released.

In the field of health care, according to the government, “compulsory hospitalization gives way in the new law to the figure of involuntary treatment, preferably on an outpatient basis and only exceptionally through hospitalization”.

“Citizens with mental illness can be subjected to involuntary treatment if they refuse medically prescribed treatment and only in situations of danger to themselves or others, safeguarding the citizen’s chance to participate and decide in drawing up their care plan,” he said.

The new law creates the figure of a “trusted person”, whom people in need of mental health care can now choose to support their care path and to whom they can express advance directives of will related to their care.

The entry into force will imply the release of 46 undocumented people, spread across the mainland and the Autonomous Region of Madeira, but the end of these internments depends on court decisions, the Directorate-General for Reintegration and Prison Services (DGRSP) explained to Lusa.

These releases will be associated with responses that may include reintegration into the family and placement in residential facilities for the elderly or people with disabilities.

Different types of housing responses, placement in health institutions or in units of the integrated mental health continuing care network are also considered.

According to the DGRSP, 228 undocumented people are in prison psychiatric institutions (São João de Deus Prison Hospital, in Caxias, and the Psychiatry and Mental Health Clinic attached to the Santa Cruz do Bispo Prison – for men). In other non-prison mental health institutions, there are 194 undocumented people serving inpatient security measures.

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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