Frequently Asked Questions
Are CVP services confidential?
Yes, the CVP provides a confidential service. Any information provided to a community visitor is only passed on with the person’s knowledge and consent.
As with all services, there are times when information cannot remain confidential. If a community visitor or a community visitors panel member believes that a person is likely to do something which might place him/herself or another person at risk, the community visitor must inform the mental health service.
What does it cost to call the CVP and ask for assistance?
There is no cost. The CVP provides a free service.
What does a Community Visitor do?
Community visitors visit the inpatient facilities in Darwin and Alice Springs at least fortnightly. During visits, the community visitor is available for people to talk to about any concerns or complaints they might have with their treatment or the facilities. The community visitor will try to help the person resolve these concerns or complaints, most often by arranging meetings with the right staff person. The community visitor can attend such meetings if requested. If the matter raised with the community visitor is a serious complaint, the visitor is able to undertake a more formal investigation.
Community visitors are also available for people receiving treatment from any NT Mental Health Service community team. Community visitors do not meet people in their own homes, but will meet at a place agreed on by all parties. As with community visitors in hospitals, the visitor will attempt to work with the person and the mental health service to resolve any complaints or concerns they may have with their treatment.
Do Community Visitors work for Mental Health Services?
No. The CVP is independent of NT Mental Health Services. That is why it is located in the Anti-Discrimination Commission. The Mental Health and Related Services Act states that a person cannot be a community visitor or a community visitors panel member if they are employed by, or have any contract with, the Department of Health and Families.
Are Community Visitors lawyers?
Community visitors are community people who have an interest and/or expertise in mental health. Some community visitors are lawyers, some are social workers, some are mediators and all have a wealth of relevant life experience. Even though some community visitors are lawyers, they do not provide legal advice.
If a person is requesting legal advice, a community visitor will provide information about the most appropriate legal agency to contact and will make contact on the person’s behalf if requested to do so.
How often does the CVP visit the inpatient facilities in the NT?
A community visitor in the Top End visits Cowdy Ward and JRU every Friday morning. A visitor will also visit whenever a person receiving treatment requests a visit. A community visitor in Alice Springs visits the Mental Health Unit fortnightly, as well as in response to a request for a visit.
Community visitors panels visit at least once every six months.
Will the CVP advocate on my behalf?
Sometimes a person who is receiving treatment feels as if issues of significance to him or her are not receiving adequate attention.
Worrying about these issues may have a considerable impact on the way a person relates to the mental health service and to their treatment. The CVP therefore sees its advocacy role as very important. All issues raised by consumers are considered to be serious and are followed up by a community visitor.
What does a Community Visitors Panel do?
A community visitors panel visits the TEMHS Inpatient Unit (Cowdy Ward and JRU) and the Mental Health Unit at least once every six months. During their visit, the panel must enquire into the quality of treatment and services received by consumers while patients in hospital.
After the visit, the panel must report to the Principal Community Visitor detailing the outcomes of their visit. The Principal Community Visitor then must ensure this report, along with any outstanding recommendations is forwarded to the Person-In-Charge of the facility visited.
What is a Special Community Visitors Panel?
As a result of amendments to the Mental Health and Related Services Act, community visitors panels no longer visit NT Mental Health Service community teams. Instead, the Principal Community Visitor has the power to convene a panel to visit an approved treatment agency if necessary. Situations that might warrant establishing a special community visitors panel include the CVP receiving a number of similar complaints about a particular issue, or the receipt of a very serious complaint that might indicate a significant systemic problem.
Can I call the Community Visitor Program at any time?
The phone to the CVP will be answered any time between 8 am and 4.30 pm Monday to Friday (except on public holidays). Any phone calls after hours are recorded on the answering machine for the Anti-Discrimination Commission and will be followed up by a community visitor on the next business day.
Who can contact the CVP?
Any person receiving treatment from NT Mental Health Services can contact the CVP. In addition, any person with a “genuine interest” in a person receiving treatment can contact us. This applies to people who care for a person with mental illness, friends and support people as well as people who are providing services to a person or people with mental illness (including mental health service staff).
How do I make a complaint?
The CVP tries to be as accessible as possible. For this reason, complaints can be made in person, by phone, in writing or by filling in the form on this internet site. A community visitor is happy to discuss your complaint with you, and can be contacted on our freecall number 1800 021 919.
Can a family member contact the CVP on my behalf?
Yes, because the Mental Health and Related Services Act provides that any person “with a genuine interest” in the person receiving treatment can contact the CVP. Before providing information to the family member though, a community visitor would need to make sure that you have given permission.
If I make a complaint to the CVP, will it affect the way mental health staff treat me?
Sometimes people are afraid to complain to a community visitor for fear that they will branded a “troublemaker” and suffer adverse consequences as a result of their complaint.
The CVP is not aware of any case where this happened, and in fact most people have reported that they have related better to the service once their concerns have been addressed.
How are complaints handled?
In general, the CVP will attempt to resolve complaints and enquiries by working with the person making the complaint and with staff from mental health services. The community visitor will do this in many ways, depending on the wishes of the person with the concern or complaint and the nature of the problem. It may involve supporting the person to speak to staff about the problem or speaking on the person’s behalf. The visitor may also arrange a more formal meeting between the person and the mental health service. If a complaint is serious, the community visitor may undertake a formal investigation.
The CVP complaints process is outlined in detail on pages 23 and 24 of the CVP Handbook.
Can a community visitor help me if I am unhappy with my involuntary admission to hospital?
The decision to involuntarily admit a person to hospital is a medical decision, and community visitors do not attempt to change or influence this decision.
A community visitor can assist by making sure the person is aware of their legal rights. A community visitor can also assist by providing support at meetings, and working with the person and the service to address any other concerns the person might have about their treatment.
What powers do community visitors have?
Community visitors have the power to visit any person receiving treatment or care in a psychiatric inpatient facility or from any NT Mental Health Service community team. The community visitor can inspect any part of the facility or agency; inspect documents or medical records as well as inspect any records or registers that the Mental Health and Related Services Act requires to be maintained.
What powers do community visitors panels have?
When visiting an inpatient facility, community visitors panels can inspect any part of the facility or agency; visit any person receiving treatment; inquire into the admission, detention, care and treatment of persons receiving treatment and inspect documents or medical records as well as inspect any records or registers that the Mental Health and Related Services Act requires to be maintained.
What is the least restrictive alternative?
The least restrictive alternative is the principle that underpins the way mental health services operate. It means that people must receive the least restrictive or least intrusive treatment in the least restrictive environment.
This is why every effort is made to treat people in the community, and the Mental Health and Related Services Act requires that if a person must go to hospital, then every effort is made to admit the person as a voluntary patient.It also means that the person receiving treatment should be consulted (as far as circumstances permit) about their treatment and care.