Saint John's mental health court should be reopened soon, says report co-author

The co-author of a report on Saint John’s mental health court says he would like to see a firm date for its return to action in the province. UNBSJ doctoral student Donaldo Canales has been studying the factors that contributed to participants in Saint John’s mental health court not completing the program.

Closed since 2013, government has no firm date to open court again

Report co-author Donaldo Canales says the current lack of a mental health court in Saint John is sad to behold. (CBC)

The co-author of a report on Saint John's mental health court says he would like to see a firm date for its return to action in the province.

UNBSJ doctoral student Donaldo Canales has been studying the factors that contributed to participants in Saint John's mental health court not completing the program.

He and co-author Mary Ann Campbell reviewed all cases admitted to the Saint John court between 2000 and 2008. Friday, he presented their findings at the Saint John Regional Hospital as part of its Interprofessional Health Research Day.

The report on Saint John's mental health court was presented on Friday. (CBC)
Despite studying the factors that make a participant in a mental health court unsuccessful, Canales said they are incredibly helpful in reducing harm.

Participants who successfully completed the program were less likely to re-offend.

"When they do re-offend, they tend to re-offend for less serious offences," he said.

Saint John's mental health court has been closed since 2013 when Judge Alfred Brien, who oversaw it, retired.

Canales said the extended hiatus is sad to behold.

You don't want to keep delaying it and delaying it.- Donaldo Canales, report co-author

While acknowledging it takes time to reopen the court, he would like to see the government establish a firm date for when it will do so.

The province said it has plans to reopen the court, but so far has not said when that will be.

"Right now the department is diligently working with stakeholders to align the necessary components for a robust mental health court, said Department of Justice and Public Safety spokesperson Anne Bull in an emailed statement. "There is no timeline yet when it is projected to resume."

Canales says mental health court's are needed in every major Canadian city to help tackle the needs of justice-involved individuals with mental illness.

"You don't want to keep delaying it and delaying it," he said.

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