A new discussion paper released by Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) today reveals that there is a high prevalence of mental health issues and social marginalization within the population who are currently eligible for legal aid services. The discussion paper, which outlines key issues for LAO’s developing Mental Health Strategy, notes that the current justice system approaches individuals with mental health and addiction issues as a group of clients with homogeneous needs. LAO’s preliminary consultations indicate that needs should be assessed individually, according to the unique socio-economic barriers and mental health issues of each client.
With the development of a comprehensive Mental Health Strategy, LAO aims to expand access to mental health legal aid services, as well as provide greater support to lawyers and other mental health legal aid providers.
“We applaud LAO for its commitment to consult widely and create a mental health strategy that will have a positive impact for the people it serves,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario, in a release from LAO. “We believe LAO’s strategy can help improve access to justice for the significant portion of people with mental health issues who turn to legal aid for help.”
Public comment on the discussion paper is now available through written submissions on a dedicated section about LAO’s Mental Health Strategy. In the upcoming months, there will be in-person consultation sessions and live webcasts as LAO meets with mental health and justice experts throughout the province to ensure a thorough consultation.
Read the complete LAO Mental Health Strategy Discussion Paper on their website.