POLICE have the authority to detain anyone they suspect to be suffering from mental health problems and are on the streets, says St Giles Hospital medical superintendent Dr Peni Biukoto.
Dr Biukoto said although police had powers to take someone suffering from mental health problems to the St Giles Hospital, officers should ensure the person in their custody was protected as well.
The Mental Health Decree 2010 states that detention of a person can be done if a certificate is issued by a medical practitioner recommending detention in a mental health facility or by a police officer who, in any place, suspects a person to be mentally disturbed.
The decree also states police can detain a person at a mental health facility if they believe the person will be safe and also benefit from being treated at a mental health hospital.
Subsection 26 of the decree also states that an ambulance officer can intervene in cases where the person in question is believed to be suicidal or suspected of having a mental health disorder.
The decree states any person detained should be assessed within 24 hours from when that person is detained.
Dr Biukoto said the common perspective of people, that those suffering from mental health problems were on the street because they could not be taken against their will to hospitals, was wrong.
"The decree gives some power to the police to bring person(s) who they suspect of mental illness to the nearest health clinic for assessment as it is a criteria in the law that needs to be fulfilled.
"Which means police can not willy-nilly take anybody off the street; they have to see that relevant sections of the law is fulfilled," Dr Biukoto said.