A newly released special report by the Matryoshka Project provides an in-depth look at seven court support programs and how they relate to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s (MOHLTC) Program Framework for Mental Health Diversion/Court Support Services. The framework, issued in February 2006, provides direction and guidelines for the implementation of mental health diversion and court support services that receive MOHLTC funding.
The investigators found that as the framework was not available when programs were first established, 10 years before, it has not played a key role in shaping programs or in how they operate. Therefore, there are major differences between the framework and how these programs function. For example, while the framework emphasizes pre-charge diversion, the seven court support programs studied offer limited pre-charge diversion services.
A positive feature of the court support programs studied is their use of intensive case management. Six of the seven programs provide intensive case management as a regular part of their services, and five programs offer it after conviction. The programs demonstrate what can be achieved when two distinct sectors, the mental health and justice sectors, build partnerships to reach common goals.
New funding invested in Ontario’s community mental health system has created greater access for people who would previously not have been served in a community mental health program. While community mental health services have typically served those with severe mental illness, the justice community’s definition of mental illness is wider and includes people with developmental disabilities, acquired brain injuries and anger management issues.
The investigators also found that some court support program clients require access to concurrent disorder services. Although access to this type of service is not outlined in the framework, court support programs have made clear attempts to make concurrent disorder services accessible to clients.
The Matryoshka Study is part of the Systems Enhancement Evaluation Initiative (SEEI), an innovative multi-faceted four-year evaluation of the effects of the investments made by the government of Ontario in specific areas of the community mental health system.
See “The Matryoshka Project: Examining the Effects of Enhanced Funding on Specialized Programs — Descriptions of the Matryoshka Project’s Court Support Programs,” March 20, 2010, available at www.ehealthontario.ca. See also A Program Framework for Mental Health Diversion/Court Support Services, February 2006, available at www.health.gov.on.ca.