In our 'On the Pulse' update for 2016, we commented on the introduction of the Substance Addiction (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Bill into Parliament.  After a long process the Bill, which is intended to replace the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Act 1966, was read for a third time on 15 February 2017 and will be passed into law.

The Bill provides a new regime for the compulsory assessment and treatment of people with substance addiction.  Under the Bill, compulsory treatment may only be imposed if a person has a "severe substance addiction" and their capacity to make informed decisions about treatment is also "severely impaired".  The Bill also expressly recognises that compulsory treatment must be a last resort, only to be used when voluntary treatment is unlikely to be effective. 

During 2016, the Bill went through its first two readings and to Select Committee.  It received full support from the Committee in mid-November 2016.  The Health Committee recommended various amendments to the Bill (which have been incorporated), including that legal advice be made available to patients as soon as possible (where they are entitled to legal advice under section 57), and that the operation and effectiveness of the Bill be reviewed three years after the legislation comes into force.  The later recommendation was made in light of concern, expressed by the Office of the Ombudsman to the Ministry, that the Bill breached the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

Enactment of this legislation will likely require a close review of current facilities and additional training for health professionals to ensure compliance with the new requirements.