Psychiatric patients on pass must file itinerary
Policy change recommended in review after Raymond Taavel's death
Patients who are out on passes from the East Coast Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Dartmouth are now required to file an itinerary in the wake of a government review prompted by the death of Halifax gay rights activist Raymond Taavel.
James MacLean, who is a program leader at the East Coast Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, said patients out on passes must give an itinerary to a community monitor who does spot checks throughout the day.
"If he decides to go to the Mic Mac Mall and he tells us he's going to be there at 3 o'clock, the community monitor can check on him at 3 o'clock and have contact with him to ensure that he's in the place that he's identified in his itinerary," MacLean told CBC News.
Taavel, 49, was killed in the early hours of April 17 while trying to break up a fight outside Menz Bar, a popular gay club on Gottingen Street in Halifax.
Andre Noel Denny, a psychiatric patient at the East Coast Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, was charged with second-degree murder charges in Taavel's death.
Denny had failed to return to the hospital after being granted a one-hour leave in April — an incident that led government officials to review release protocols for psychiatric patients.
That review, released in September, listed better tracking and more frequent assessments of forensic psychiatric patients among its 18 recommendations.
MacLean said the Capital District Health Authority is in the process of implementing all the recommendations and forensic patients are no longer given one-hour passes to go off-site for a smoke until they've had a formal review by the Nova Scotia Criminal Code Review Board.
The full-time community monitor also has the power to have a patient arrested if he or she does not follow the submitted itinerary, said MacLean.
"If they're not where they're supposed to be, many of them will have cellphones and he will try to contact them on their cellphones to see if there's been a glitch, if they missed a bus or whatnot," he said.
"He has the ability at that point to declare them AWOL and start the AWOL process."
'Talk is cheap'
Meanwhile, Taavel's family released a statement saying they will be watching closely to make sure all the recommendations in the joint review become policy.
"As the saying goes, 'Talk is cheap,'" wrote Sean Foreman, a lawyer for the Taavel family.
"Rest assured that Raymond’s family will be watching closely to ensure that rhetoric and public statements from our political and health leaders turn into concrete action and positive change — that would have been demanded by Raymond himself — to ensure his memory is honoured and his tragic death was not in vain."
Taavel's family also wants the province to go further and use GPS bracelets to track offenders with a history or risk of violence.
The idea was rejected by the review committee and the province of Nova Scotia, who said GPS monitoring is not actively being considered.
"It is unacceptable to reason that we should not pursue GPS tracking in Nova Scotia because it has yet to be adopted at any other forensic facility in Canada," the family said.
"Nova Scotia has been a leader in various other areas of policy and government action and to state the obvious, someone always has to be first."