Calgary

Calgary judge's unusual tactic 'opened doors' for mentally ill teen needing treatment bed

A 14-year-old mentally ill boy now has a treatment bed just four days after a Calgary judge publicly blasted the government over the fact the troubled teen was being kept in jail.

Judge Steve Lipton said the case of a 14-year-old with nowhere to go made him 'very, very angry'

A 14-year-old mentally ill boy will be moved from the Calgary Young Offender Centre to a treatment facility Monday after a bed was found for him over the weekend. (CBC)

A mentally ill 14-year-old will now be treated instead of jailed just four days after a Calgary judge publicly blasted the government when he was told the only place for the boy to be housed was behind bars. 

Over the weekend, the province found a bed at a secure treatment facility for the boy who youth court Judge Steve Lipton said suffers from drug addiction, paranoia and hallucinations.

On Thursday, Lipton summoned the media to his courtroom when he learned there were no secure treatment beds available in southern Alberta. The boy remained at the Calgary Young Offender Centre. 

"He's mentally ill, and I'm keeping him in jail and he's a kid," said Lipton. "What is wrong with this picture?"

The teen, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, faces charges of assault, failure to appear, mischief and theft. He is in the care of the province under a permanent guardianship order. 

Lipton's comments "opened doors" for the boy, according to the executive director of the teen's designated First Nations child and family services agency. CBC News is not naming the director or the First Nation involved to protect the child's identity.

"I'm glad someone else has seen what we're going through," said the director. "I'm glad because we're able to keep the child safe and develop a treatment plan.

"The biggest thing is once the judge ordered media involvement, that's what kind of opened doors for this."

Though the teen's placement was celebrated, the executive director said there are many other vulnerable First Nations children in need of similar supports and services.

Government to create more secure beds

The day after Lipton's comments were published, Premier Rachel Notley said she would direct her government to find more supports for young offenders with severe mental illness.

​The executive director also said that a meeting with regional child intervention directors to address systemic issues has been scheduled as a direct result of the media attention from Lipton's unusual approach.  

According to Lipton, the teen is heavily addicted to crystal meth and alcohol, and has expressed fear that people will try to kill him or inject him with drugs while he sleeps.

Youth court Judge Todd LaRochelle issued the five-day order for the boy to receive treatment at the secure facility. That order can be extended for up to 30 days.

The boy will be back in court June 9, when an extension on his treatment order can be sought.