Mental Health Court: The Way of the Future

In April 2018, Edmonton launched a mental health court to great results. The court was designed to address the backlog of criminal cases by addressing mental health concerns. At the root of many criminal cases and recidivism is an underlying mental health issue. Traditional courts are not always equipped to address the mental health element underlying the cases. Meaning that the cycle of repeat offences continues.

The mental health court reduces the likelihood that someone will reoffend by “tackling the mental health issues that put them there in the first place.” In the CBC article by Andrea Huncar, she writes that “Unlike conventional courtrooms, mental health court moves at a slower pace. Judges can make quicker, more informed decisions based on access to the real-time expertise of a forensic psychiatrist and mental health nurse, and computerized medical files — all of which provide a more holistic view of the accused.” It is a collaborative process between judges, duty counsel, Crown prosecutors, healthcare and social workers, sheriffs, and community agencies.

The informal nature of the proceedings allows the court to be more culturally sensitive to the types of sentences. Assistant Chief Judge Larry Anderson credits the mental health court for effectively and efficiently dealing with matters. “Chances are it just would have gone over for a longer period of time and come back without anybody ever actually having been able to sink their teeth into it.” I hope that more provinces adopt a similar mental health court to address the backlog of the criminal cases and potentially reduce recidivism.

(Views are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)

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