PROVINCE ANNOUNCES MENTAL-HEALTH COURT TO BEGIN IN MAY
Expanded Mental-health Services Help Make Problem-solving Court Possible: Ministers
A special court that works with individuals whose mental-health issues are causing them to be involved in crime will begin hearing cases on May 10, supported by expanded mental-health services put in place by the province, provincial court Chief Judge Ken Champagne, Justice Minister
Andrew Swan and Health Minister Theresa Oswald announced today.
The court anticipates that, as each accused mental health improves, their appearances may become less frequent, said Champagne. Upon the
treatment plan being completed, the accused will make a final appearance before the mental-health court judge either to be sentenced to a community-based disposition or for the Crown to stay the charges. The entire process is expected to take 18 to 24 months from referral to disposition.
Problem-solving courts like this help make our communities safer by recognizing and addressing the core reasons people come into conflict with the law in the first place, said Swan.
Providing the supports needed will also help lead to lasting, positive change and better outcomes for people living with mental illness, said Oswald.
The mental-health court focuses on adults with mental-health issues and is similar to the Winnipeg drug-treatment court, which attempts to break the cycle of drug use, criminal behaviour and jail for drug-addicted offenders, Swan said.
A team, operated by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, will provide supports and assessment of mental-health status, development of service and treatment plans and support and information for family members, Oswald said. The development of a service and treatment plan could include:
* community support such as basic needs, counselling and day programs;
* focused, intensive case-management by an assertive community-treatment team (as a transition to ongoing community supports);
* addictions counselling;
* employment and educational supports;
* admission to hospital for intensive assessment and stabilization;
* community service work;
* an apology to the victim or others affected; and
* involvement of family members.
Every week, the mental-health court judge will meet with the forensic assertive community-treatment team in chambers to discuss the treatment progress of each person on the docket. During the court sitting, as the Crown calls each matter the mental-health court judge will address the accused directly to encourage their ongoing commitment to their mental-health plan, Champagne explained.
Cross-training is also provided for those working in or with the mental-health court. It includes:
* education for judges, prosecutors, defence counsel, police and corrections staff related to mental illnesses and co-occurring substance-use disorders; and
* training about court and justice processes for the community-treatment team, the psychiatrist attached to the mental-health court and other related service providers.
An information session for legal counsel and other stakeholders on how the court works is planned for May 1 and it will begin to sit weekly on May 10 in courtroom 408 at the Law Courts Complex in Winnipeg.