A New Brunswick judge is optimistic the provincial government's new strategy will help people who are suffering from mental illnesses.

Provincial Court Judge Michael McKee, who led a task force into improving mental health services, said the new mental health strategy  announced this week by Health Minister Madeleine Dubé addressed many of his recommendations.

"They've addressed most of the recommendations, but not as focused as I had hoped some of them," McKee said.

However, McKee said he is disappointed the provincial government will not be setting up more mental health courts.

He said the only mental health court in the province has been successful in helping people.

"In Saint John, at the mental health court, 90 per cent had completed the requirements of the program in the mental health court and out of that number, 85 per cent of those never returned to court. So go figure," McKee said.

McKee said mental health courts are one way to reduce the high number of people in jail who are suffering from mental illnesses.

The judge said he believes those courts can help find other solutions to jail time for people suffering from a mental illness.

He said 69 per cent of people in jail have mental health issues.

Improved collaboration

The provincial government's new action plan on mental health calls for increased access to specialized services for those people suffering from mental health illnesses.

The goal of the action plan is to help people achieve a greater quality of life and to receive services and supports that work best for them. The health minister said there will be an emphasis on identifying and treating mental illness early.

The provincial government is committing to the establishment of so-called "treatment teams," which will respond to individual needs and ensure that housing, employment and treatment are provided to people with mental illnesses.

McKee said he is pleased the province will try to improve collaboration among the many agencies and professionals who help people with mental illness.

The provincial court judge is also philosophical about the time the province is giving itself to bring in the changes.

"I had recommended five years to implement the recommendations, they have upped it to seven years. So seven years is better than none," he said.