'More than one-third of individuals in custody in Ontario suffer from some sort of mental illness.'
Toronto (22 Nov. 2010) - Ontario is falling desperately short in its responsibility to protect and rehabilitate mental health patients who find themselves caught in the criminal justice system, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).
The union is calling on the province to provide immediate, designated and sustainable funding that will permit mental health patients to access services they require – away from police cells and correctional facilities.
The problem facing this category of mental health patients was brought into focus in a Nov. 16 Toronto Globe and Mail story relating how provincial judges have ordered hospital officials to stop shunting unfit offenders to provincial jails where they cannot be properly treated.
Judges have awarded legal costs against the Crown for a “serious affront to the authority of the courts and a serious interference with the administration of justice,” the Globe reports.
Ontario has been cutting costs at mental health facilities for years, promising to fund community alternatives but failing to implement these plans while mentally ill offenders continue to languish in correctional facilities.
According to the ministry of community safety and correctional services, more than one-third of individuals in custody in Ontario suffer from some sort of mental illness.
Lawyers and advocates for mentally ill offenders are hoping changes will result from this battle between courts and hospitals.
"While the court-ordered hospitalization for unfit offenders is a step in the right direction, empty beds do not magically appear," OPSEU notes.
"Until funding is restored to mental health facilities, patients and offenders will not receive proper treatments and protection."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE