Beyond the Headlines

Schizophrenia Society says no to GPS tracking

Posted: May 11, 2012 2:43 PM ET Last Updated: May 11, 2012 2:43 PM ET

The Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia is weighing in on the debate over whether Nova Scotia should employ GPS tracking devices to monitor patients from the East Coast Forensic Hospital who are out on a temporary pass.
The issue was first raised after Andre Denny, a patient with a violent past who failed to return from a one hour pass, was charged with killing Raymond Taavel. It came up again, after Amy Olgilvie, a patient described as possibly dangerous to herself and the public, failed to return from a day pass.
Almost immediately the idea was dismissed by both Capital Health and Health Minister Maureen MacDonald.
Today, the Schizophrenia Society says it too, is opposed. This is the letter they sent us:

"The Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia is opposed to the use of GPS tracking devices on patients on pass from the East Coast Forensic Hospital (ECFH).

The expectation of any hospital is to provide treatment that upholds the values of respect, dignity, and self-determination, and focuses on the recovery of the individual, regardless of the illness or situation. We see no therapeutic value in the use of a tracking device for individuals being treated for a mental illness. This action discriminates against a population that is already thought to be less deserving and less entitled to full citizenship in this country, and may be in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The safety of the individual and the public is a prime concern of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia; however, the use of an electronic tracking device merely points to the location of the individual and will not change a behavior or guarantee an outcome. It is best to monitor and assess the individual according to their state of health/support and use that as a basis for determining their activity, not a GPS.

The emphasis must be placed on risk assessment of patients at the ECFH prior to a pass being issued, and having the necessary supports in place to safely transition a person from hospital to the community.

The Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia also recommends reducing the patient population at the ECFH at the point of entry. We suggest that this could be accomplished by significantly improving access to mental health treatment and supports in the community, both for the individual and for their family members, prior to the escalation of illness."

Lessons from London
While the idea doesn't seem to have a lot of support here in Nova Scotia, GPS tracking is being used in London, England. After one of their patients murdered an elderly man back in 2009, a forensic hospital in South London began using GPS monitoring bracelets every time a patient left their facility. They are still using it.
You can read my original post on their experience here and this is the interview Information Morning did with Lorcan O'Neill in London:


After that interview the show spoke with Archie Kaiser, a respected law professor at Dalhousie University. Here's what he had to say:


So that's the debate.
I'm told the senior government officials who are conducting the review of the Andre Denny case are looking at GPS tracking. Sources say it won't be in their interim report, but it will be discussed in their final report.
The review team was given a deadline of 30 days to file its interim findings, so we should see that sometime next week.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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