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Taiwan unveils plans to establish national mental health center

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Premier Su Tseng-chang (front).

Taipei, Jan. 13 (CNA) The government plans to establish a national mental health command center which will be connected to local governments through a 24-hour emergency response mechanism to strengthen the existing social safety net, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said Thursday.

Su said at a regular Cabinet meeting that the plan is in line with a draft amendment to the Mental Health Act the Cabinet approved earlier in the day, according to Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成)

The command center will establish a platform that combines early warning systems from various government agencies in order to provide more effective social protections, according to the premier.

The draft amendment proposed by the Ministry of Health and Welfare is in response to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It also meets the public's desire for a stronger social safety net in Taiwan.

The proposal seeks to promote mental health through cross-agency collaboration, including improving case management services, medical care and facilities and community support for people with mental illnesses.

A main focus of the draft amendment is the involuntary treatment of mentally ill patients. It stipulates that a person diagnosed with a serious mental illness can only be involuntarily admitted to a hospital with a court order, according to Shen Lih-jong (諶立中), director-general of the health ministry's Department of Mental and Oral Health.

A court order will be based on a hearing involving judges, psychiatrists and representatives of patients' right groups under a lay assessor system, Shen said, adding that the duration of involuntary hospitalization will be limited to 60 days and only one such order can be issued.

The proposed amendment also includes provisions aimed at mental health promotion; establishment of community psychiatric facilities and mental health centers, the diversification of community support and resources; strengthening reporting of patients to improve crisis prevention and management; and better protection of patients' rights, Shen added.

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