On Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, CMHA Ontario met with Paula Reid, who was recently awarded a Travel Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to explore best practices for individuals with mental health issues who have come into contact with the criminal justice system. More specifically, Reid is interested in diversion programmes and has been travelling across the United States and Canada to visit pre-trial support services, mental health courts and police forces.
CMHA Ontario shared with Reid insights and the work of the Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee (HSJCC), including:
- The Provincial HSJCC’s critical review of joint police/mental health collaborations in Ontario which identifies innovative practices, their successes and challenges. For example in the Hamilton, Halton, Peel and the Chatham-Kent areas the Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) program brings together multi-disciplinary mental health workers (social workers, nurses, etc.) and specially trained, plain-clothed police officers that co-respond to mental health crises in the community and link individuals to the appropriate resources.
- The Provincial HSJCC’s Info Guide, released this year, outlining the key issues relating to mental health apprehensions and police accompanied visits to the emergency department (ED). The guide also highlights strategies for effective police-ED protocols in Ontario. CMHA Ontario is developing police officer-endorsed best practices in police-ED protocols to inform the provincial government’s Inter-Ministerial Directors Group on Justice and Mental Health.
- Information about the Central South Regional HSJCC’s 2012 evaluation of a mental health court program and a North East Regional HSJCC project looking at mental health diversion, alternate diversion success rates, fitness screenings and admission aversion rates. Mental health courts and drug courts are emerging in other areas of the province as well. For more, check out the accomplishments of local and regional HSJCCs in the 2012/13 Annual Report.
To follow Reid as she travels the continent and visits some of the aforementioned initiatives, visit her blog – Atlantic Diversions and stay tuned for her lessons learned. For more information on the work of the Provincial HSJCC, visit the website.