On October 30, 2013, the Ministries of Children and Youth Services, Attorney General and Education came together to host an important Forum on Youth Mental Health and Justice. This event comes after the inquest of a 16-year old youth who died while in custody, and a growing concern that recommendations from child death inquests are seldom carried out. The Forum was attended by over 300 mental health service providers, judges, lawyers, crown attorneys, police officers and policy makers from the health, justice, and education sectors. The day began with welcoming remarks by the Honourable Teresa Piruzza, Minister of Children and Youth Services and the Honourable John Gerretsen, Attorney General and was chairedby Dr. Ian Manion, Executive Director at the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health. Beginning with an overview of the G.A. inquest, the day was jam-packed with panels on first encounters with youth, pre-charge, post-charge and court processes, the Ontario forensic mental health system and community treatment programming.
In the afternoon, Uppala Chandrasekera, Director of Policy and Planning at CMHA Ontario, along with Alexia Jaouich from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and Joan Dervin, Chair of the Champlain Regional Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee (HSJCC), presented on the Youth Justice Collaboratives (JCs) work happening across the province. There are four JCs, which began development in 2013, as part of the implementation of Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy. Three of these JCs focus on youth and all are time limited, project based endeavors to support select communities in Ontario achieve similar objectives through implementing interventions at the local level. The JCs are well attended by members of the HSJCCs, who were also mentioned with regard to their work on existing protocols between police and emergency departments to address the needs of individuals apprehended under the Mental Health Act. The HSJCC Info Guide on Strategies for Implementing Effective Police-Emergency Department Protocols in Ontario can be found on the HSJCC website. The project is now in its second phase, with police being surveyed on the most effective protocols across the province. Stay tuned for an upcoming webinar on this topic in the New Year.
The Forum on Youth Mental Health and Justice ended with a discussion of promising practices and Keisha’s success story, a youth who came into contact with the law. Keisha gave an inspiring recollection of how she grew to trust her support worker, studied with a teacher while in the Intensive Support and Supervision Program (ISSP) to finish her high school diploma and begin to rebuild her reputation by enrolling in university to study nursing.
Participants walked away from the Forum well-informed about the systemic issues in the justice and mental health systems (including the need for better coordination and sharing of information), reinvigorated by the tremendous need and potential of the system, and with a yearning to know what is next and how we can begin to tackle these issues.
For a full list of the 71 recommendations made at the G.A. inquest, visit the website of the Pronvincial Advocate for Children and Youth.
Learn more about CMHA Ontario’s work on justice and mental health.