Changes to Ontario's Mental Health Act

New Changes to Ontario’s Mental Health Act

After discovering that a deaf and mentally ill man has been held in the maximum security section of the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care for over two decades under the Mental Health Act, the Ontario government is under pressure to make changes – and they only have a few months to do it.

Five judges from the Ontario Court of Appeals all ruled that The Mental Health Act doesn’t have safeguards in place to protect patients who are in the system for prolonged periods. A six-month limit has been suggested, and the government has until December of this year to respond.

Mark Handelman – a lawyer who has served for ten years on the Consent and Capacity Board – commented that the government “will have to figure out another way to deal with patients detained for longer than six months. We are truly facing a tsunami-size crisis of caring for people who need care, to whom we owe the obligation to care. To some extent, it comes down to providing adequate resources to meet society’s obligations to individuals.”

It’s possible the government will create a new legislative policy permitting longer stays when a mental health emergency is present, in addition to making changes to the existing Act.

In the case of the man who has been detained for over 20 years, his time in the system began in 1992 when he was imprisoned for 14 months for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old boy. After his time had been served, the Consent and Capacity Board decided that, as a convicted pedophile, he may still be a threat to society. The man – who is known only as P.S – has been detained in the Waypoint Centre ever since, despite his psychiatrists repeatedly recommending that he be transferred to a lower security facility, and even be released. Lower security institutions have refused to accept him.

This said, the Ontario Review Board, which is charged with determining if a person is not criminally responsible for a crime, can legally force a facility to accept a patient.

P.S’s lawyer successful argued that his civil liberties have been abused, and the judges agreed.

David Jensen – a spokesperson for the government body dealing with this issue – reported that they are “reviewing the options available to respond to the court’s decision within the time frame set out in the decision.”

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