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Cayman: Important changes to Mental Health Related Acts Gazetted

Grand Cayman, Monday, 31 October 2022 –  Two important pieces of legislation aimed at improving and strengthening mental health services in the Cayman Islands have recently been gazetted.

The Mental Health (Amendment) Act, 2022, which amends the Mental Health Act (2022 Revision) clarifies the procedure relating to emergency detention orders, provides for orders for protective custody, and provides for restrictions to post and electronic networks by patients, among other things.

The new subsections of the amended Act provide for the creation and implementation of the protective custody form which will streamline the process for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) when acting upon such an order made by a medical officer.  A medical officer under the Act is a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist who has a doctoral qualification in that discipline registered under the Health Practice Act (2021 Revision).

Protective custody orders are made when a medical officer needs the RCIPS’ assistance in bringing a person suffering from a mental impairment or serious mental illness in for examination by a medical doctor employed by Government.   Family members who are concerned for the health and welfare of a relative are also able to initiate the process by completing a “Request for Review” form which is submitted to the medical officer who can then contact the RCIPS with the location of the person in question.

The amendment also clarifies the procedure relating to emergency detention orders. The medical officer who made the order for protective custody may consult with the medical doctor employed by the Government who examined the person, and if necessary, can make an emergency detention order for the person for up to 72 hours in a hospital or other place of safety where they are able to receive care.

Police constables will also be able to intervene more readily in situations where by reason of a mental impairment or serious mental illness a person is an immediate danger or likely to become a danger to themselves or others. Persons taken by police constables into protective custody must be brought before a government medical doctor for an assessment no more than twelve (12) hours from the time they are taken into custody.

The amendment also includes the use and access to electronic networks as a way to capture the technological advancements in communication and to allow medical officers to assess if such networks can have a direct or indirect adverse effect on the patient, similar to what can be done with postal packets.  If the medical officer makes a decision to deny access to such electronic networks the patient or the patient’s nearest relative may appeal the decision directly with the Mental Health Commission.

The Mental Health Commission (Amendment) Act, 2022, the second legislation gazetted, provides the Mental Health Commission the ability to hear and determine appeals against restrictions imposed in respect to access to postal packets and electronic networks by patients.

“The Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Mental Health Commission and multiple other partners have worked together to bring more clarity to numerous processes that directly impact some of our most vulnerable people: those with serious mental illness or who by reason of mental impairment may harm themselves or others,” explains Hon. Sabrina Turner, Minister for Health and Wellness.

“It is important to ensure that our legislation actively supports best practices, is relevant to the work that is being done by our healthcare professionals at the ground level, and as always meets the needs of patients while protecting their rights and dignity.  I am happy to say that these changes will do just that,” Minister Turner added.

The Mental Health (Amendment) Regulations, 2022 will be submitted in due time to support the implementation of the amendments in legislation.

The commencement date of the Mental Health (Amendment) Act, 2022 is expected before the end of the year, after which the Mental Health Commission (Amendment) Act, 2022, will also come into force.  Once both Acts come into force, the Mental Health Commission will then notify the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Health and the RCIPS of the updated forms and the changes to the legislation.


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