New Zealand Law Society - Substance Addiction bill passage recommended

Substance Addiction bill passage recommended

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Parliament's Health Committee has released its report on the Substance Addiction (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Bill with a recommendation that it be passed with amendments.

The bill would replace the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act 1966, which is considered outdated and inconsistent with modern approaches to compulsory treatment based on human rights.

The bill would provide for the compulsory assessment and treatment of individuals with severe substance addition who lack the capacity to make decisions about their treatment.

Compulsory treatment would enable treatment providers to thoroughly assess and individual's addiction, protect them from harm, and provide them with treatment for that addiction. The overall goal for treatment providers would be to restore the individual's capacity to make decisions about further voluntary treatment.

Among the amendments recommended by the committee is to clause 57 which entitles a patient to ask for advice from a lawyer about their status and rights as a patient or any other legal issue. The provision also says if a lawyer agrees to act for a patient, the lawyer must be given access when they request to see the patient. The committee recommends amending this to also require the legal advice to be given as soon as practicable.

Another recommended amendment would require a review of the operation and effectiveness of the bill within 6 months after the date of the third anniversary of the date on which the clause comes into force.

"We believe that this review is sensible given that the Office of the Ombudsman expressed concern to the [Ministry of Health] that the bill breaches the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities," the committee says.

The bill was referred to the committee on 15 March 2016 with submissions closing on 27 April 2016. The committee received 39 submissions and heard from 15 submitters.

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