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.