People with Mental Illnesses Need a New Legal Framework
It is necessary to provide a legal framework for restoring capacity of people who have previously been deprived of it, defining the incapacity period, as well regulating the application procedure to court for people who assumingly lack capacity, government and civil society representatives said at the Media Center discussion.

In 2014-15 the Protection of Rights without Borders NGO carried out a survey on peculiarities of mental health and relevant limitations of freedom of people with mental illnesses.

The survey revealed four main problems – mainly referring to legislative gaps – which hinder the recognition and enforcement of rights of dysfunctional people.

Hasmik Harutyunyan, legal expert at the Protection of Rights without Borders NGO, said the RA Civil Code regulates the deprivation of capacity be full and it is a problem.

“The institution of full deprivation of capacity requires reviewing since not in all cases of mental disorder a person should be fully deprived of capacity. Unlike Armenia, several European states are legally obliged to apply such mechanisms that will allow partially depriving a person of capacity,” Harutyunyan said.

Harutyunyan added in the majority of cases people who apply to them complain that they were not invited to the hearings when the court issued a decision on their incapacity.

“Yet, one of the cornerstones of justice, in this regard, is that the person whose capacity is disputed has the possibility to attend the hearings. Another serious problem in Armenia is the lack of a mechanism which will allow restoring capacity whereas presently a person may be deprived of capacity permanently. And due to this legislative gap people with mental disorder are not granted certain rights.”

The current law provides people with mental illnesses may restore their capacity only upon the request of a psychiatric institution, guardian or family member. The experts consider it risky since the deprivation of capacity may possibly be demanded to seize the person’s property.

Samvel Torosyan, chief psychiatrist at the Ministry of Health, spoke for amending the Civil Code. “Since the new generation medicine allows treating people with chronic mental disorder, legislation should regulate the deprivation of capacity, specific period should be defined and our patients should have a possibility to apply to the court,” Torosyan said.

Anahit Navoyan, senior specialist at the Legal Department at Kentron District, Yerevan, contradicted saying in certain cases people deprived of capacity take part in hearings: “I myself attended such hearings and usually family members have to persuade them to come to the court. And those people, on seeing unknown faces, behave unbalanced. Actually, in cases judges have doubts they insist on the person’s presence at hearings.” The speaker noted the Guardianship Agency of the Kentron District did not have cases of capacity deprivation to alienate property.

According to Anahit Gevorgyan, deputy head at the Department for Disablement Affairs at the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, the Ministry has developed a concept note for alternative care and services. “We have initiated ever first need assessment at institutions for people with mental disorder. Not all of them are seriously ill. Twenty-six patients out of 450 at Vardenis psychiatric care home may live at home, daily attending day care centers or live in a care apartment. This year a pilot project will be carried out: we will allocate a flat to eight patients and see how they manage to arrange their day,” Gevorgyan said.

The project is ongoing and it is planned to open another care home which will house sixteen individuals, Gevorgyan emphasized.

“There are no alternative services in Armenia, and we have attempted to introduce a series of services and are determined to add and advance them every year,” Gevorgyan said.


Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator

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