Check Against Delivery
Thank you for being here today. I’m Dr. Catherine Zahn, President and CEO of CAMH.
CAMH is Canada’s largest psychiatric hospital. Our inpatient and outpatient services include one of Ontario’s 10 forensic mental health programs.
In Canadian law if a crime is committed as a direct result of mental illness, a person can be found Not Criminally Responsible – or NCR.
When a court determines that a mental illness caused a person to commit an offence, they are sent to a hospital like CAMH – not to prison – to get treatment.
The forensic mental health system in Canada is separate and apart from the corrections system.
While at CAMH for supervision and recovery, people who are found NCR are subject to the jurisdiction of a Review Board, not the courts.
The CAMH forensic program carries out the supervision and treatment of people found NCR in accordance with parameters set out by the Ontario Review Board.
CAMH’s duties with respect to the provision of mental health care are two-fold:
First – we have a duty to protect the public, which we take very seriously.
Public safety factors into every decision we take around the supervision, treatment, and recovery plan being provided to forensic patients.
Second – we have a legally-binding duty to provide mental health treatment with the ultimate goal of integrating people back into community.
People with mental illness can and do get better. It’s our responsibility as a health care provider to support patients in their recovery.
Achieving the right balance between these two responsibilities in our forensic program and working within the parameters set for us by the Ontario Review Board is complex.
The forensic mental health system is often the subject of great debate and of public scrutiny – as it should be.
And we know that our ability to effectively manage this balance requires a level of community, government, patient, family, and public confidence in CAMH.
We are actively reviewing our own processes and our communication procedures with the police, the Ontario Review Board, our community and other partners.
However, I understand how events of the last number of months have caused people in the community to be concerned about our ability to effectively manage that fine balance.
So today, I am announcing an external review of CAMH's process for passes and privileges involving forensic patients.
The review will look at incidents over the past several months to inform CAMH practice in the context of the broader forensic psychiatry system, and to provide concrete recommendations for our organization.
We are in the process of naming a chair for the review, and are working to identify international experts who will participate and contribute their skills, knowledge and experience to the recommendations.
I have asked for the review to be completed by year-end. This will allow a team to undertake the level of detailed examination that ensures robust recommendations, and it will allow us to enact change as expediently as possible in order to rebuild trust in our program and in our organization as quickly as possible.
As you know, last week the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario expressed their desire for CAMH to undertake a review of recent incidents and to take any and all measures that could improve our processes.
We’ve been in touch with the City and the Province about our appointment of an external reviewer, and we will be keeping both levels of government apprised of our review findings.
We will work with our government and law enforcement partners on how to improve.
I want to thank CAMH’s physicians and front-line staff for their deep commitment to our patients and families.
Our clinicians care for people with the most serious mental illnesses - those with the most complex disorders who have not had access to the health care they deserve.
We have a duty to our patients and families, our physicians and staff, our neighbourhood and community, and our province and country to do better.
I take that duty very seriously. Thank you.