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Coroner’s inquest into suicide of teen waiting for mental health assessment

July 28, 2011

A coroner’s inquest into the death of Pickering, Ontario teen Gleb Alfyorov finds that the province needs a treatment centre outside of jails where youth can receive court-ordered psychiatric evaluations. Alfyorov was court-ordered by a judge to be assessed for criminal responsibility, based on a previous assault of hitting his older sister. While awaiting a mental health assessment in the Syl Apps Youth Centre, he hung himself with his shoelaces.

The lawyer organizing Alfyorov’s transfer for assessment secured a bed at what he thought was a hospital like-setting. In fact it was a jail, where no assessment was completed. Staff members at the jail incorrectly thought they could not access Alfyorov’s file due to privacy laws.

During the inquest, the jury was asked to consider the recommendation that the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) review privacy laws to ensure that policies do not restrict access to personal health information.

The Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (PACY), an advocacy group testifying at the inquest, wants to see a policy where youth spending two or more days isolated from others in correctional facilities are flagged by staff and the MCYS regional office and PACY are then notified.

Unanimously, all parties at the inquest agreed that there must be better communication between court staff, jail staff, and probation officers to ensure information is conveyed to the right people. This has become one of the recommendations of the jury.

To read the Toronto Star article, visit www.thestar.com.

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