N.B. government to reinstate mental health court in Saint John
The New Brunswick government says a mental health court will return to Saint John this year.
For a decade, Saint John was home to New Brunswick’s only mental health court in an attempt to stop the revolving door of people with mental health issues who were reoffending.
But that service was phased out four years ago.
"I've heard people say in the justice system or the policing community, ‘This would be a good case for mental health court’ or ‘I wish we had the mental health court because I think this would be an excellent opportunity to work with this person,'" says Mary Ann Campbell of the University of New Brunswick Saint John Centre for Justice.
Premier Brian Gallant could not provide a dollar figure on how much the return of mental health court will cost, but he suggested the price may not be the biggest challenge.
"What we have to understand is a lot of departments and a lot of groups will have to have a concerted effort to work together,” Gallant says, “and that concerted effort is probably one of the barriers that makes it tougher to have this is every single region."
When it was in operation, mental health court stacked up an impressive track record. But after retiring, the original judge was never replaced and the service disappeared.
"The evidence in New Brunswick over a nine-year period from 2000 to 2009 was that 85 per cent of the people who went through the program did not slide back,” says Randy Hatfield of the Saint John Human Development Council.
Nova Scotia has been operating a specialized mental health court since 2009. The service brings together court staff, social workers, probation officers and mental health professionals to take on cases in which patients have volunteered to participate.
"It will be reinstated this fall in Saint john,” says Susan Haley of Horizon Health. “We've got our clinicians ready, the Crown prosecutor is ready, the judge is ready."
Mental health court returns to Saint John in early November.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron.