S.A.C.A.T 2018-05-30T19:52:34+00:00

Compulsory Assessment and Treatment in New Zealand

In February 2018 the New Zealand Government passed the Substance Addiction (Compulsory Assessment & Treatment) Act into law.

The act is designed to align the assessment and treatment of substance addictions more with the treatment of Mental Health issues which already allows for compulsory assessment and treatment options (PPP & R) where a patient’s safety would otherwise be compromised.

The first thing we need to note is that this legislation applies only to Substance Addiction; it does not apply to what was often referred to as the process addictions. Examples of the so-called process addictions include problematic patterns of gambling, accessing pornography and other compulsive sexual behaviours etc.

For obvious reasons however, the process is rigorous to protect the rights of the person being referred. People have the right to make dumb decisions!

However, subject to strict guidelines someone, most likely a close whanau/family member, may apply for an order to get a loved one assessed and if all other criteria are met, then subjected to a compulsory treatment order.

The most authoritative guides on this legislation are offered by the Ministry of Health and can be found here.

Compulsory treatment orders would require a patient (yes once under a compulsory order they cease to be clients/tangata whaiora and are formally referred to as patients) to be treated in a designated residential treatment facility.

Therein lies the next problem.

Best practice determines that treatment for any problematic behaviour is offered according to the individual’s Risk, Need & Responsivity;

  • Risk – to themselves and others
  • Need – what is driving or underlying the problematic pattern of behaviour, and their
  • Responsivity – what is their level of responsiveness/motivation to change this/these patterns of problematic behaviours.

To place a person in treatment where their individual risk, need and responsivity is not correctly matched to the service and or where others also in treatment have widely different risk, needs and responsivity profiles can actually have a detrimental impact. Better outcomes less likely to occur and, it is possible, that by exposing them to others with greater levels of risk and need and lesser responsivity, such a service could actually make it more difficult to address these issues – the patients behaviour may become more severe!

In short, even if you can satisfy the criteria for an order compelling a loved one into treatment, you may not actually be helping them? People who are presenting with problematic patterns of behaviour will only change when:

  • They can see the benefits of changing for them
  • Those benefits are seen to be significantly better for them than the outcomes they are currently experiencing
  • They believe they can do it!

We and no amount of treatment can change a person; change is something that has to come from them.

If you would like to discuss this further please contact us.