Understanding the offender with a dual diagnosis
Southern Network of Specialized Care, Bethesda Services Inc., and Regional Support Associates have partnered to develop a new manual,Understanding the Offender with a Dual Diagnosis. Its purpose is to inform readers about issues relating to dual diagnosis and to assist care providers, mental health workers and justice workers to more adequately meet the needs of offenders with dual diagnoses.
Dual diagnosis refers to co-occurring mental illness and developmental disability. The manual describes developmental disability as a lifelong condition that affects a person’s ability to learn and function independently; although all individuals develop and learn, those with a developmental delay learn more slowly and with greater difficulty. Developmental disability impedes both intellectual functioning (the individual’s ability to learn, think, solve problems and make sense of the world) and adaptive functioning (the skill needed to care for oneself and live independently).
The manual includes a developmental disability checklist to use as a screening tool to identify individuals with a potential developmental disability, and a flow chart that identifies the different paths an individual can take once a charge has been laid in the justice system. The issues identified as affecting offenders with dual diagnosis include the following:
- This population continues to be over-represented in the justice system.
- Developing strategies to address their complex needs will help to establish rapport with this special population.
- Persons with a dual diagnosis may lack a multitude of skills required to “survive” in a correctional facility.
- They may exhibit undesirable behaviours that increase the intensity of supports required. Staff time and attention become an issue. Such additional resources are seldom available in justice environments.
- Education about this population is the key to better understanding and building rapport with this marginalized group.
Dual Diagnosis Justice Case Managers support individuals who have been charged with a criminal offence. In Southern Ontario, these case managers are available through Regional Support Associates at 519-433-7238, ext. 2212, and Bethesda Services at 905-684-6918, ext. 318.
This manual is available through the provincial Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee website at www.hsjcc.on.ca.