Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is partnering with Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario and the Provincial Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee (P-HSJCC) to create a standard set of intake questions to identify at-risk and high-needs clients and ensure they get the legal supports they need. LAO’s frontline workers, lawyers and clinic staff will be able to use this evidence-based, quick interview questionnaire to help identify clients with complex mental health or addictions needs at any point of contact and as early in the legal proceeding as possible.
“While intake tools are common in the health care and social support sectors, there are few rights-based options that can be used by frontline legal staff in a criminal duty counsel setting,” said Ryan Fritsch, who is leading LAO’s Mental Health Strategy. “This tool is a platform for innovation that will support the development of additional case coordination and coordinate services at any point of contact with the legal aid system.”
The questionnaire is only intended to take five to ten minutes to complete so it is not meant to be a clinical mental health diagnostic tool or a comprehensive survey of all legal needs.
“The majority of people with mental health and addictions issues never come into contact with the criminal justice system but for those who do, it is important to identify the level of their unique service needs,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO of CMHA Ontario. “What the questionnaire will do is help the legal service provider better understand the complexity of the needs of the client and then make appropriate referrals to mental health, addictions and social services providers in the community.”
The intake tool will be piloted beginning Fall 2014 in a criminal duty counsel office. Implementation of the tool at additional legal and community sites will follow. More information will be available as the project progresses.
This partnership is one of a number of projects that LAO will be undertaking as part of the development of its Mental Health Strategy. This strategy aims to strengthen the capacity of lawyers, frontline workers and management to better serve clients with mental health and addiction needs. It is a multi-faceted, multi-year strategy that will improve access, increase capacity, and build on LAO’s current client services.
For more information on this program:
Phone: 416-979-2352 ext. 6371
For other questions or communication requests:
Phone: 416-979-2352 ext. 6015
Tel: 416-977-5580 ext. 4141 Toll Free: 1-800-875-6213