Wed, Jun 06, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Legislators pass measures to protect disabled people

COMMUNITY CARE The Mental Health Act and the Handicapped Protection Law were amended yesterday to improve the standards of treatment and protection

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The legislature passed an amendment to the Mental Health Act (精神衛生法) yesterday, which will seek to better safeguard the human rights of people with mental health problems and introduce a community-based care model for them.

"The Mental Health Act has not been thoroughly reviewed since it was promulgated in 1990," said Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wang Jung-chang (王榮璋), one of the lawmakers who have been pushing the passage of the amendment.

The amendment stipulates that people with mental health problems should receive treatment or mental rehabilitation in their residential community.

The amendment states that whether or not a person with mental health problems is obliged to be hospitalized or undergo medical treatment should be reviewed by a committee composed of psychiatrists, therapists, social workers, legal experts and representatives from groups promoting the rights and interests of people with mental health problems.

Hospitalization or treatment expenses should be covered by the government, the amendment states.

Schools will be required to promote mental health education and establish student counseling and crisis management mechanism.

People who abandon or physically or psychologically abuse those with mental health problems or force or trick them into marriage will face fines ranging from NT$30,000 to NT$150,000.

An amendment to the Handicapped Protection Law (身心障礙者保護法) was also passed, marking a new chapter in the effort to protect physically and mentally disadvantaged people from discrimination and abuse.

The legislation was also given a new title -- Rights and Interests of the Handicapped Protection Law (身心障礙者權益保障法).

"As of June last year, the number of physically and mentally disadvantaged people totalled 957,451, accounting for 4.2 percent of the nation's population," said DPP Legislator Wang Jung-chang (王榮璋), a member of the legislature's Sanitation and Environment and Social Welfare Committee.

"There are great individual differences among this group. In order to reconstruct protection of the disabled that meets the current situation, we have sought to change the title of the law to reflect a more enthusiastic perspective of the law," he said.

The amendment bars the media from portraying the physically and mentally disadvantaged using "discriminatory terms" or running coverage that may mislead the public into holding prejudiced views against them. Violators could face fines of between NT$100,000 and NT$500,000.

No one can abandon, abuse or restrict the freedom of physically and mentally disabled people nor make profits by displaying them to tourists or forcing them to beg for money, the amendment states.

Violators of this article will face fines between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000 and have their names publicized, the amendment states.

If violators are family members of a physically or mentally disabled person they will have to take up to 50 hours of family education and counseling.

The government is obliged to offer emergency protection -- up to a maximum of 72 hours -- to the physically and mentally disabled who suffer abandonment, abuse or manipulation and are in immediate life danger.

The legislation also seeks to increase job opportunities for the handicapped within the government and private companies.

Government agencies with more than 34 employees will be required to have a disabled workforce representing at least 3 percent of their total staff, while the private enterprises with more than 67 employees must meet a 1 percent thresahold.

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