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AMHS-KFLA’s Justice Team: Court Support and Services

According to Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, more than half of individuals placed in custody have a mental health need or suicide risk. A 2013 study by the John Howard Society of Ontario found that 80% of those released on bail have a substance use or mental health problem: a rate 4 times that of the general population.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has concluded that Ontario corrections are not properly accommodating people with mental illness or addiction disabilities. To support those with mental illness or addiction who are facing criminal charges, AMHS-KFLA’s Justice Services Team offers information, advocacy and assistance.

Referrals are welcomed from anyone within in individual’s circle of care. Justice Services are voluntary, offered at the consent of those who are in conflict with the law and at least 16 years of age. Staff link clients to legal counsel; provide relevant information to clients, their families and the court; and attend hearings with clients to lend support and assistance. Staff advocate for clients’ rights in relation to charges, bail, fitness to stand trial, and sentencing. In some cases, staff can recommend and oversee alternatives to jail, such as mental health diversion. In addition, staff connect clients to community mental health and addiction services that assist in recovery and wellness. Support continues until court-related matters are resolved.

While AMHS-KFLA’s Justice Services Team plays a key role in helping individuals with mental illness or addiction navigate the legal system, there are some limitations on what staff can do. Staff cannot act as legal counsel or surety for bail; recommend a specific lawyer; or provide psychiatric or forensic assessments. Mental health diversion cannot be offered to those with a substance use issue but no coinciding mental health problem, or for individuals facing driving or domestic violence charges. Staff are also unable to provide transportation to and from court; support for matters before Family Court; support for matters stemming from charges involving AMHS-KFLA or its staff while on duty; or visits to clients in custody. For other court-related matters within their field of duty, AMHS-KFLA’s Justice Services Team works tirelessly to support fair and equitable outcomes for clients, offering helpful information and access to support, with the goal of ensuring that justice is served to all in equal measure.