Mental Health in the Courts

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Mental Health issues are commonly seen in the court system. Mental health issues are complex and can have a significant bearing on how the case proceeds through the courts and the ultimate outcome of the case.  As well, mental health issues are often coupled with substance abuse and addiction issues.

The Mental Health Diversion Program

In Calgary and surrounding areas, the Mental Health Diversion Program is available to adults and adolescents with a mental illness who are charged with minor, low-risk offences. It is set up to provide care, support and treatment as an alternative to being prosecuted by the criminal justice system.

To be accepted into this program there is an initial evaluation procedure by health care workers to determine if an individual meets the criteria for the program. If that is approved, the matter is then sent to the Crown Prosecutor’s Office for approval. If approval is given, the Court case is adjourned for a lengthy period of time and the individual is given a treatment program to complete. The treatment programs are designed to address the mental health issues, foster an improvement in mental health and give community support in areas of life skills and management of mental health issues. Social workers, psychologists and other mental health workers work with the individual to assist them with their mental health, access to pharmacy services, housing, income, employment, and education.

Generally, persons participating in the program suffer from a mental illness such as schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, or mood, adjustment and anxiety disorders.  Because of their mental illness they have become involved in the criminal justice system. The types of offences include property offences, minor assaults or repeated failures to appear in court or breaches of the peace. This program is a path to helping these individuals with their specific problems that brought them into the criminal justice system rather than punishing them for the offence.

At the successful completion of the program the charge is withdrawn by the Crown Prosecutor’s office.

If you think you may be eligible for this program or want more information contact my office.