Community treatment orders in Australia: rates and patterns of use.

16 May 2016

Objectives: Community treatment orders (CTOs) allow clinicians to provide unconsented outpatient treatment to people living with mental illness. Though controversial and of uncertain efficacy, CTOs are used throughout Australia and internationally. We sought to determine the prevalence of CTO use in Australian states and territories, and to examine changes in the pattern of use over time. Method: Australian state and territory mental health review tribunals and health departments were surveyed for the most recent annual data on the total number of CTOs made and the total number of individual people placed on a CTO. Results: Rates of CTO use range from 30.2 per 100,000 population (in Tasmania) to 98.8 per 100,000 population (in Victoria). Use of CTOs in Australia is high by world standards, appears to be increasing over time, and varies significantly across jurisdictions. Conclusions: The high (by world standards), increasing and variable use of CTOs in Australia is concerning and raises important implications for mental health policymakers and legislators. Current mental health policy activity, particularly the new National Mental Health Commission, provides a unique opportunity to enhance transparency and accountability if regular and nationally uniform CTO data are collected and publically reported. Key words: Community treatment order, compulsory community treatment, community mental health, legislation, policy