Use of an Apprehended Violence Order to avoid involuntary psychiatric hospitalisation

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Abstract

Objective

To describe a patient with a delusional disorder who utilised the provisions of an apprehended violence order (AVO) to avoid involuntary hospitalisation under the 1990 NSW Mental Health Act.

Method

Case Report.

Results

The patient had a well-circumscribed paranoid delusional system involving multiple individuals in a regional centre. The patient made accusations of paedophilia, harassment, assault, bribery and corruption against numerous politicians, a local shopkeeper and several members of the community psychiatry team. The patient applied for an AVO against the Team Leader of the community psychiatry team and team staff to evade execution of a Section 27 Order of the 1990 NSW Mental Health Act, and to block any evaluation of his mental state by the community psychiatry team or others. The patient eventually withdrew the complaint. However, the Area Health Service bore all costs, which were substantial both in time for staff members and in monetary terms.

Conclusions

Any patient can attempt to prevent the enactment of the NSW 1990 Mental Health Act by using another legal manoeuvre such as an AVO. Such an action may have major implications for the operation of a community psychiatry team in relation to its functioning, the effect on staff and costs in terms of money and time.

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