Canadian Psychiatric Association gets political on Harper crime bill

We’ve long been used to the Canadian Medical Association politically advocating on behalf of the nearly 60,000 doctors they represent.

It shouldn’t therefore be surprising that the Canadian Psychiatric Association has decided to go public in its criticism of the Harper government crime bill. Some say its about time.

The CPA says the Harper’s “get tough on crime” agenda may impact people with mental illness disproportionately, adding to their present over representation with the criminal justice system.

Dr. Gary Chaimowitz, a board member with the CPA, told the Hamilton Spectator that mandatory minimum sentences being proposed in the government’s omnibus bill do not exempt those with mental illnesses.

The CPA issued a position paper in November that calls for a significant overhaul of mental health services in both federal and provincial corrections systems.

“Canadians have a right to health care. People with mental illness often struggle to access psychiatric treatment, hindered, in part, by their illnesses, stigma-discrimination and limited resources,” the position paper states. “It is imperative that psychiatric services be made readily available for patients in our correctional system.”

Recommendations in the paper include:

  • Screening on admission for mental illness, and where appropriate, instituting a treatment plan.
  • Close review of any psychiatric patients who have been segregated for being at risk for self harm.
  • The creation of a special mobile team within Corrections Services Canada to deal with complex treatment-refractory inmates who engage in repeated self-injury.
  • Follow up with community agencies for probationers and parolees.
  • Enhanced training for correctional officers, correctional mental health staff and psychiatrists working with the federal correctional system.
  • Development of post-graduate programs in psychiatry specifically addressing patients in a corrections setting.
  • Development of psychiatric treatment units within federal and provincial corrections systems.
  • A joint task force to develop a mental health strategy for psychiatric patients in jails and prisons.

In an opinion piece in yesterday’s Hamilton Spectator, Marvin Ross suggest the CPA should go further and take on what he calls the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s flawed strategy for mental health in Canada.

6 responses to “Canadian Psychiatric Association gets political on Harper crime bill

  1. I would like a bit more pro-active involvement.
    Let’s get them the treatment & supportive housing they need before they come in conflict with the law & have victims.
    Not only is it less expensive it is more humane.

  2. Harper only listens to his hardcore base & not the experts in this field.Prisons have become the new hospitals as most are now closing and the mentally ill,aboriginals, and women the most marginalized in society will suffer the most.Harper has setback the stigma of mental illness by 25 years with his policies.

  3. While all of this is true… it’s way, way too late to make a difference and completely overlooks the obvious: that if there was better and more accessible mental health care in the community, including an adequate number and diversely formatted residential treatment and supportive living centres for mental health and addictions…. THERE WOULDN’T BE NEAR THE NEED FOR MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT IN THE CORRECTION SYSTEM!

  4. Odd how social services, physical and mental health care and education are all losing funding, yet Heir harpo can find the cash to build super jails, (concentration camps and learn to be a better criminal schools) when it is a proven fact that prevention is the key, and that crime rates are down due to programs run by social service agencies…I hear the gestapo at my door….

  5. I think it is tragic that the omnibus crime bill will take ppl with mental health issues right to medical treatment away from them. It is a weak society that does not protect the poor, homeless and mentally ill. As someone said long ago… what you do to the least among you will attest to who you are. We must save our nation’s reputation and demand that compassion be given to those who are at the highest risk in our society!! Shame on Harpers Governement

  6. There seems to be a universal problem establishing a “bottom line” when addressing the issues of mental health. Might I suggest that we stop slapping band-aids on this gaping wound and get down to the pragmatics of an appropriate definition that will become the cornerstone of both public and private sector operations.
    STOP trying to make it pretty through celebrity endorsements…it’s not. STOP trying to lump it in with other conditions such as addiction…it’s different.
    STOP perpetuating the stigma through empty ad campaigns and platform promises…that’s offensive.
    STOP giving the power to determine diagnostic and rehabilitation status to insurance carriers who’s vested interest is in quantifying, over-riding and dismissing the collective advice of the medical communities…it’s terribly debilitating to the entire system, not to mention life-threatening to those who are then forced to choose between their financial survival and their own well-being.
    No amount of resources will satisfy the need if that need continues to be defined in exclusionary terms.
    Get your omnipotent selves into a room and don’t come out until you’ve decided who’s driving the bus and who needs to step off. Take firm and absolute control over the private sector mythology of an appeal provision. Victims shouldn’t be forced to defend themselves…that role should fall to their doctors, NOT some independent practitioner who they’ve never met.
    The blatant disrespect and abdication of authority in this regard is nothing short of criminal.
    This is not a six month or six year endeavour. If it takes more than SIX DAYS, you either still dancing around the issue or you have the wrong people in the room. Get on with it.

    Marg Gurr
    Ex Civil Servant and mental health sufferer.

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