Now is time to update the Mental Health Act
Eilish O'Regan (Irish Independent, June 3) makes reference to the Mental Health Commission's concerns regarding the number of applications by gardai for involuntary admission to a psychiatric unit rather than by the HSE's authorised officer -- a trained mental health professional who actively seeks the least restrictive alternative to involuntary admission.
However, under the Mental Health Act this is the only course of action that can be taken in crisis situations where there is an immediate risk to a patient harming themselves or others. Only the gardai can speedily act, gaining access to the person's home and taking the person to a place of safety for examination by a medical practitioner.
Other applicants have to await an examination by the person's GP followed by the involvement of the escort team who are psychiatric nurses. Due to safety concerns of some psychiatric nurses, a private organisation provides this service in many areas but that can take up to 12 hours to arrive.