New Brunswick

Schizophrenia Society backs community treatment orders

The CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada says mental health patients and their families would benefit from the introduction of community treatment orders in New Brunswick.

New government task force will come up with strategy to implement community treatment orders in N.B.

Matthew Tweedie, a Fredericton lawyer, will be leading a new task force looking at bringing in a system of community treatment orders in New Brunswick. (CBC)
The chief executive officer of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada says mental health patients and their families would benefit from the introduction of community treatment orders in New Brunswick.

The provincial government has set up a new task force that will spend the next year coming up with a strategy to implement the directives, also known as community support orders.

Chris Summerville, who is in Fredericton as part of the local chapter's mental illness awareness event, says the idea is controversial but ultimately benefits patients.

He says this approach monitors patients in the community, which is far better than holding them in a psychiatric facility.

"They wouldn't be using emergency services as much," Summerville said Thursday on Information Morning Fredericton.

"Often you have some individuals with a severe mental illness who are over-users of emergency services … So there is less suffering on the part of the individual if it's done in a humane, compassionate way."

The Gallant government appointed Matthew Tweedie, a Fredericton lawyer, last week to lead the task force that will evaluate the program, which would provide expanded treatment for people with severe mental illness outside of a hospital setting.

2 working groups

The task force will take on an advisory role and will set up two working groups.

One will examine the legislative changes required to the Mental Health Act and the Infirm Persons Act.

The other will look at what services are needed in the province in order to support patients once they are under a community treatment order.

"The primary goal is to reduce hospitalizations, which reduces cost to the hospital. Any time you can keep a patient in their home, in their community, receiving the support that they need, whether it is for mental health or any other health issue, I think intuitively we all think that is best for the patient," Tweedie said.

Summerville, who has dealt with depression, says these orders would help prevent patients from falling through the cracks.

"Practically it means that under such an order [patients] would agree and promise to take their medications, and cooperate in whatever services are required, and as long as they do it they could live in the community," he said.

"Sometimes they will send someone out to watch that person to make sure they take their medication … It's not policing, you don't have a watchdog following the person around."

Failure to obey the agreements could land a patient back in a psychiatric facility.

Engage people living with mental illness

Health Minister Victor Boudreau said in a statement last week the task force will "ensure a more patient-centred approach to care in our communities."

Summerville says the process must involve people living with mental illness and their family members in order to be effective.

"If you meaningfully engage [these groups] as part of this task force you will come up with a better answer than if you do it without them," he said.

The Liberals promised to bring in the orders in their election campaign and it was also a recommendation out of the coroner's inquest into the death of Serena Perry. The coroner's inquest recommended a forthcoming law be called, "Serena's Law."

Organizations, such as the New Brunswick Psychiatric Association, have already put forward calls for community treatment orders.

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