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June 20, 2012

The following statement was given today in the House of Assembly by the Honourable Felix Collins, Minister of Justice:

Mental Health Court Provides Important Support to Participants

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to provide an update to the House of Assembly on an important initiative that we feel is making a difference in the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Since 2005, the Mental Health Court has been operating in St. John’s helping participants access medical and community-based support. This court is based on the recognition that certain offenders who suffer from a mental disorder may commit offences as a consequence of their mental disorder or related lifestyle issues. They may have inadequate or inappropriate housing, very little employment, very little support and they may not be taking their prescribed medications or they may be self-medicating with alcohol and drugs.

Mr. Speaker, to date 416 participants have appeared before the Mental Health Court and in the last fiscal year, 2011-12, 50 participants appeared in relation to 149 charges. What is particularly encouraging is that 89 per cent of those participants engaged in support from the community where they reached their treatment goals. In our view, this is a strong indicator of success.

Anecdotally, we are also hearing positive feedback from various sources. In a recent decision, the Court of Appeal stated that the involvement in the Mental Health Court has been a success and that the specialty court process has worked. We have interviewed participants who have said that the process has changed their lives and helped them with their recovery. They have expressed their gratitude because they were treated as a person rather than a number. Mr. Speaker, to me this is the greatest feedback we could receive.

The Provincial Government is certainly aware of the benefits of specialty courts such as the Mental Health Court. In Budget 2012-13: People and Prosperity, this government recommitted to continue the pilot project for the Specialized Family Violence Court. We are also undertaking an evaluation of various drug treatment court models across the country in order to determine the best approach for this province.

Mr. Speaker I would also like to thank the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, Public Prosecutions, the Mental Health Project of the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission, Eastern Health and Corrections and Community Services for making the Mental Health Court possible and the success story that it is.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

2012 06 20             2:15 p.m.

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