A factsheet on the application and management of EEOs under Chapter 2, Division 3 of the Mental Health Act 2000 (Qld) (MHA).

The MHA can be accessed on the Queensland Health website.

For a flowchart on involuntary assessment and treatment in the Queensland mental health system, and where EEOs fit in, see LawRight’s website.

What is an EEO?

An emergency examination order authorises the temporary detention and examination of a person who is experiencing urgent mental health problems. If the EEO criteria apply, then a person can be forced to go to an authorised mental health service for examination.

Following examination, it may be decided that the person should undergo Involuntary Assessment, which in turn can lead to the making of an Involuntary Treatment Order (ITO).

An EEO is distinguishable from a Justices Examination Order (JEO), which applies to non-urgent mental health examinations.

Who can make an EEO?

A police officer
An ambulance officer; or
A psychiatrist.

When can an EEO be made?

Before an EEO can be made for a person, the police or ambulance officer must reasonably believe (s 33, MHA), or the psychiatrist must be satisfied (s 37, MHA), that:

  • the person has a mental illness; and
  • because of the person’s illness there is an imminent risk of significant physical harm being sustained by the person or someone else; and
  • proceeding under a JEO would cause dangerous delay and significantly increase the risk of harm to the person or someone else; and
  • the person should be taken to an authorised mental health service for examination to decide whether a request and recommendation for assessment (see Involuntary Assessment) should be made for the person.

Mental illness is defined in s 12 of the MHA.

How is an EEO made?

The procedure for making an EEO is different depending on whether it is made by a police or ambulance officer or a psychiatrist.

EEO made by a police or ambulance officer – ss 33-36, MHA
If the police or ambulance officer reasonably believes the above criteria have been met, then they must take the person to an authorised mental health service for examination: s 34, MHA.

An authorised mental health service is one declared by the Director of Mental Health to be an authorised mental health service. A public hospital may also be an authorised mental health service if there is no authorised mental health service readily accessible for a person’s examination or assessment: s 15, MHA.

Immediately after taking the person to the authorised mental health service, the police or ambulance officer must make an EEO (police or ambulance officer) for the person in the approved form and stating the time when the EEO is made: s 35, MHA.

Immediately after making the EEO, the officer must give the order to a health service employee at the health service: s 35(3), MHA.

EEO made by a psychiatrist – ss 37-40, MHA
If a psychiatrist is satisfied that the above criteria have been met, then the person may be taken by the psychiatrist, or by a police officer or ambulance officer, to an authorised mental health service for examination: s 39, MHA.

The psychiatrist must make an EEO (psychiatrist) in the approved form: s 38, MHA. The patient’s detention is authorised once the order is produced to a health service employee at the authorised mental health service: s 40, MHA.

What is the effect of an EEO?

From the time the EEO (police or ambulance officer) is made, or from the time the EEO (psychiatrist) is produced to a health service employee, the person may be detained for up to 6 hours for examination by a doctor or authorised mental health practitioner: s 36(1), MHA for EEO (police or ambulance officer) and s 40, MHA for EEO (psychiatrist). This 6 hour period is known as the examination time.

During the examination time, assessment documents may be made for the person authorising their continued detention for assessment to determine whether the person should receive treatment for their mental illness. See Involuntary Assessment for more information.

If assessment documents have not been made before the end of the examination time, then assessment can only be carried out with the person’s agreement.

Powers of ambulance officers or police officers

An ambulance officer or police officer who reasonably believes the circumstances for making an EEO exist is empowered to take the person to an authorised mental health service. They also have this power if an EEO (psychiatrist) exists for the person.

Police officers have the right to enter a place to prevent an offence, injury or domestic violence: s 609, Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld).

What are my rights if I am subject to an EEO?

Taking you to hospital

If a psychiatrist, police officer or ambulance officer attempts to take you to an authorised mental health service for examination under an EEO assessment, they must, to the extent that it is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances-

Identify themselves and anyone helping them to you, for example by producing their identity card for your inspection or having their identity card on display so it is clearly visible to you: s 542, MHA.

However, failure to comply with these requirements does not invalidate the exercise of their power to take you to an authorised mental health service.

A psychiatrist or ambulance officer may only enter your place if you give consent. If you refuse consent, then they may call the police to assist who have an additional right of entry under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld), if they reasonably suspect that there is an imminent risk of personal injury or property damage, or if domestic violence has occurred.

At the hospital

In carrying out the examination, the doctor or practitioner must, to the extent that it is reasonably practicable in the circumstances explain to you, in general terms, the application of an EEO to you: s 36(2) for EEO (police or ambulance officer) and s 40(4) for EEO (psychiatrist).

A person detained under an EEO is not an “involuntary patient” as defined by the MHA and is therefore not entitled to some of the rights listed in that Act, such as the right to an allied person, or the right to be given a copy of the statement of rights for involuntary patients.

A person responsible for your assessment, examination, detention or treatment must not ill treat you. To ill treat includes to wilfully neglect or molest: s 518, MHA.

If at the end of the examination time assessment documents have not been made, you are entitled to be returned to the place from where you were taken for the examination, or to another place if that is reasonable: s 41(b), MHA.

Accessing information about your examination

The Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) gives you the right to access your own personal information held by government, unless, on balance it would be contrary to the public interest to release the information. Applications under the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) are free, however, there may be access charges, for example, photocopying charges.

Before making a formal application, you should first contact Queensland Health and make a request for the information. The relevant contact details are:

Administrative Law Team, Legal Unit
Queensland Health
GPO Box 48
Brisbane QLD 4001
Tel: (07) 323 41735

If this is unsuccessful, then you can make a formal access application. See the website to apply online or to download an application form.

The processing period is generally 25 days from the date the application is received.

An access application may be refused for a number of reasons including if the document relates to the applicant’s health care information and its disclosure might be prejudicial to their physical or mental health or wellbeing: see s 67, Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld), and s 47 of the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld).

Alternatively, the documents may be released to you but with information about other individuals “blacked out” in order to protect their privacy.

If an application is refused, then in certain circumstances you may be able to apply for review of that decision. See the website for more information.

Guardians and attorneys who have power for a health matter for an adult have certain rights to information about the adult from their health provider. See s 76 of the Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 (Qld).