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Advocates Say Mental Health Bill May Be Too Little, Too Late
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 16, 2004

LONDON, ENGLAND--Officials with the Department of Health said this week that they are working with mental health advocates to rewrite a Mental Health Bill that critics had called too harsh.

But advocates say the government is moving too slowly to have the measure ready before this parliamentary session ends July 22.

An earlier draft, published in 2002, was withdrawn after advocates with the Mental Health Alliance, a coalition of mental health 60 organizations, protested parts of the bill that would have forced people with mental illnesses to go through treatment without their permission, and would have allowed people considered to have "dangerous" personality disorders to be locked up.

According to a brief item in Saturday's edition of The Independent, health officials are trying to compromise with the advocates by narrowing the number of groups of mental health patients who could be forced into treatment once they were released into the community. However, they have not yet removed the provision that would allow for those considered a "serious risk of harm" to be detained. One official said this only affected about one percent of all cases.

"We are not talking about giving men the power to kick down doors and inject people," The Independent quoted an unnamed official. "All we are doing is talking about making sure they take their treatment so that we don't have a revolving door, with patients leaving hospital only to have to come back in for treatment."

Health Secretary John Reid said he plans to introduce the Bill before the Queen's Speech in November.

Some advocates worry that the legislation may not be voted on for years.

Richard Brook, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said: "It is vitally important that the Government gets this Bill right."

Related:
"Mental health bill future in doubt" (The Guardian)

http://society.guardian.co.uk/mentalhealth/story/0,8150,1239427,00.html

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