TORONTO, May 4, 2017 - Ontario's statement on correctional reform heralds a significant shift in the focus of responsibility for the mental health care of prison inmates from corrections to health. CAMH welcomes this, and commends the government for embarking on this important new direction.
The challenges for correctional authorities caring for significant numbers of inmates with mental health problems have been well documented, including suicides, excessive use of segregation and neglect of physical and health needs. Addressing this requires very significant improvements to mental health services for prison inmates, as well is improved access to acute hospitalization for inmates with serious mental illness, rather than their inappropriate segregation.
Experience elsewhere in Canada and internationally tells us that mental health services in corrections are best delivered by specialist mental health teams based in mental health services, rather than in correctional services. This is because the competing demands of health service delivery in the context of significant custodial responsibilities make it very difficult for one organization to deliver both effectively. When the health staff are employees of health services, it clearly holds the health sector to account for ensuring that prison inmates have their mental health treatment needs appropriately met to acceptable professional and community standards.
While CAMH recognizes this transition will be complex to manage, we welcome the government's exploration of this change and strongly support the shift in responsibility for mental health service provision for prison inmates from correctional to health authorities.