Mental Health

Mental Health Law comes into force today; allows release of 46 ‘unimputable offenders’

Law brings end to automatic prolongation of inpatient treatment

The new Mental Health Law – which brings an end to the automatic extension of hospitalisation of ‘unimputable’ people (people deemed not responsible for their actions) and allows involuntary treatment – came into force this Sunday and should see the release of 46 people, provided the courts agree. 

The law was promulgated on July 10 by President Marcelo, who nonetheless pointed out that it “lacked densification of some legal concepts and figures”, writes Lusa.

The new legislation aims to change the paradigm of the approach to people in need of mental health care and defines that, after serving the sentence for a crime to which they have been convicted, the unfit to plea must be released

In the field of healthcare, according to the government, “compulsory hospitalisation gives way to involuntary treatment, preferably on an outpatient basis and only exceptionally through hospitalisation.

“Citizens with mental illness may be subjected to involuntary treatment in the event of refusal of medically-prescribed treatment and only in situations of danger to themselves or others, safeguarding the citizen’s participation and decision in drawing up their care plan”.

The new law creates the figure of a “person of trust“, whom people in need of mental health care can now choose to support their care path and to whom they can express advance directives of will related to their care.

The entry into force of the law will signal the release of 46 non-custodial offenders, spread across the mainland and the Autonomous Region of Madeira – but the end of these people’s internments depends on court decisions, the Directorate-General for Reintegration and Prison Services (DGRSP) has explained. These releases will be associated with responses that may include reintegration into a family environment and installation in residential structures for the elderly or people with disabilities.

Different types of housing, placement in health institutions or in units of the integrated mental health care network are also considered.

According to the DGRSP, 228 undocumented people are in prison psychiatric institutions (São João de Deus Prison Hospital, in Caxias, and the Psychiatry and Mental Health Clinic attached to the Santa Cruz do Bispo Prison – male). In other non-prison mental health institutions, there are 194 unimputables serving a security measure of internment.

According to professor of psychiatry Miguel Xavier, the new law is a step in the right direction towards compliance with human rights.

SIC Notícias today refers to one ‘unimputable’, named as Ezequiel Ribeiro, “declared unimputable” who has been in prison for 37 years “when the maximum term in Portugal is 25”.

Ezequiel Ribeiro “was released this morning, under the terms of the new Mental Health law”, says the station.

Source material: LUSA/ SIC Notícias