Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act

The Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act (IPTA) is meant to assist persons who have a mental disorder or severe mental illness, and:

  • are a danger to themselves or others, or are at risk of becoming a danger to themselves or others;

  • need to be cared for in a safe and supervised environment (as an in-patient in a hospital);

  • are not able to make decisions about their care.

The IPTA does not apply to people who can make decisions for themselves (are ‘competent’).

The Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act (IPTA) is used when people with mental illnesses are unable to make their own decisions about treatment and need help to deal with their condition.

This Act is used by certain medical professionals when making decisions about whether a patient with a mental disorder has to be kept in hospital involuntarily. It is also used by people who believe that someone they know is suffering from a mental disorder, and needs to be examined by a medical professional for their own safety or the safety of others. This is the part of the IPTA that is addressed by the courts.

Anybody can make a written request, under oath.

You can apply for a medical examination of another person under this Act. This means you are asking for the court to order that the person be examined by a psychiatrist or other doctor.

Applications made under this Act are dealt with in the Supreme Court (Family Division). The application is made where the person needing help is located.

Each court will have its own process. You should speak with court staff to find out what you need to do, and what documents you will need to file. In most cases, the person that you are asking to be examined will need to be notified of the proceeding, unless the judge says otherwise. 

The judge must be convinced that there are ‘reasonable and probable grounds’ to believe that the person has a mental disorder, will not undergo a medical examination on their own, and as a result of the mental disorder:

  • is threatening or attempting to cause serious harm to themselves or has done so recently, or has recently caused serious harm to themselves, or

  • is seriously harming or is threatening serious harm to someone else or has recently done so, or

  • the person is likely to suffer serious physical or mental harm or deterioration, or both, if they are not medically examined.

An order made under the IPTA lasts for 7 days – this means a psychiatrist or other doctor must examine the person within these 7 days.

A police officer and/or someone named by the judge in the order will be required to take the person for the medical examination. In the Halifax Regional Municipality, the Mobile Mental Health Crisis Team may assist with this. Check with court staff to find out what their specific process is.

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