Changes to Alberta’s Mental Health Act affect admission criteria, treatment, procedures and patient rights. Read the information provided and the act to know how these changes affects you or someone you know.
The Mental Health Advocate (MHA) was established in 1990 under the Mental Health Act. The MHA is legislated to help people who are, or have been, detained in hospital under admission or renewal certificates and people under community treatment orders (CTO), and those acting on their behalf, to understand and exercise their rights. The MHA may investigate complaints or refer the complainant to another body that can assist.
Role of the Advocate
The MHA is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and reports to the Minister of Health. The MHA acts independently of the health system to provide rights advice and act as an investigative body. The MHA is not part of a provincial health authority, hospital, clinic, or treatment team.
The Advocate has jurisdiction to investigate complaints from or relating to:
- patients under one admission certificate
- formal patients – patients under two admission certificates, or renewal certificates
- persons who are subject to CTOs
The Advocate may initiate and conduct an investigation into any matter under the act relating to a patient with or without the patient’s consent.
Advocacy and rights advice
The Mental Health Act requires the Advocate to contact each formal patient who has requested contact as soon as practicable after receipt of the patient’s admission certificates or renewal certificates. The Advocate may provide to each formal patient, the patient’s guardian, if any, one person designated by the patient and, unless the patient objects, the patient’s nearest relative, information respecting:
- the authority for the patient’s detention and the period of it
- the function of review panels
- the name and address of the chair of the review panel for the facility
- the right to apply to the review panel for cancellation of the admission certificates or renewal certificates or for an order to the board to issue a community treatment order, and
- the right of a patient to free and timely access to their medical records relevant to a hearing before a review panel or the Court of King’s Bench
The Advocate must ensure that a formal patient has been provided complete information by the board under the act. As well, the Advocate must review the summary of information provided by the board with the formal patient.
The Advocate may contact and advise a formal patient or a person who is subject to a CTO at any time, regardless of whether a complaint has been received from or relating to the formal patient or person who is subject to a CTO.
Refusal to investigate
The Advocate may refuse to investigate or cease to investigate if the Advocate believes that the subject matter of the complaint is trivial, the complaint is frivolous or vexatious, no investigation is necessary having regard to all of the circumstances, or the subject-matter is more appropriately addressed by a different committee, body, person or other entity.
If the MHA is of the opinion the hospital board, health authority, or qualified health professional has not taken appropriate action on any of the MHA's recommendations, the MHA is required by law to send a copy of the investigation report and the hospital board, health authority, or qualified health professionals’ response, if any, to the Minister of Health.
We can help
If you or someone you know is receiving or has received care while under the Mental Health Act, the MHA may be able to help you. There is no cost – it is a free service.
You are not alone. We are here to help you find the information and support you need.
Anyone may submit an inquiry for information or lodge their own complaint, or a complaint on behalf of someone else. Complaints should pertain to the patient's rights under the Mental Health Act.
If you do not fall under our mandate, we will connect you with someone who can assist.
The MHA may also be asked by government to provide their perspective on policies.
The MHA promotes and supports individual’s rights and brings awareness to issues in mental health through:
- free presentations, training and knowledge exchange for:
- health professionals
- community organizations
- families and caregivers
- those who use mental health services
- post-secondary students
- and more
To book a presentation, contact our office.
The Mental Health Advocate cannot:
- represent an individual at court or tribunals
- reverse a clinical or administrative decision
- take disciplinary action against any health service provider
- order any fines or other penalties
- investigate complaints involving federal or municipal governments, police, universities, schools or other non-health related companies
Read the Health Advocates' 2020-2021 annual report.
Mental Health Advocate
With more than 6 years at the Office of the Alberta Health Advocates Catherine Douglas is the Health and Mental Health Advocate. She has more than 40 years of experience working with persons with disabilities, in health care and in seniors housing across 4 different provinces. Catherine’s passion for and dedication to person-centered care combined with her extensive experience, help to support Albertans as they navigate the complicated and ever-changing health system. A lover of song, dance and anything Scottish, Catherine lives in Edmonton with her husband and 2 spoiled dogs.
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