Mental Health Resolution

Mental Health Resolution

Mental health diversion is a program offered in Ontario and other jurisdictions to divert those with mental health issues out of the formal court system. It is a way of resolving criminal charges without a formal guilty plea or trial.

What is Mental Health Diversion?

Mental health diversion courts are courts aimed at diverting those with mental health issues out of the formal court system. It allows those with mental health issues to get the extra resources they need to help prevent future criminal behaviour.

Mental health courts vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, the local courthouse will have a devoted mental health court. In smaller jurisdictions mental health courts may not be available at all. In jurisdictions where there are mental health courts, there will be mental health court support staff who are there to assist offenders who have been approved for the program.

Whether or not a file is approved for mental health diversion is within the discretion of the Crown. When the Crown’s office receives a new file, they will screen it for many things, including various diversion programs. If the Crown has reason to believe the accused is suffering from mental health issues and those mental health issues may be treated to prevent future offending, they may approve the accused for mental health diversion. If the file is not initial screened for diversion, the accused or their lawyer will have an opportunity to present evidence to the Crown to persuade them to divert the matter. In very serious cases, diversion may not be appropriate.

Once an individual has been screened for mental health diversion, they will be given conditions that must be met to stay in the diversion program. In most cases, part of the diversion program will involve seeing a doctor regularly and undergoing treatment as prescribed by the doctor. After attending treatment for some time, if the treating physician is satisfied that there has been progress with the accused, the accused may return to regular court and eventually have their charges withdrawn.

Who is eligible for Mental Health Diversion?

As outlined above, the Crown’s office will screen each file on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the accused is eligible for a diversion program, including mental health diversion.

To be eligible the Crown must be satisfied that the accused is suffering from some type of mental health issue that may reasonably improve through regular treatment. The Crown will weigh many different relevant factors including the nature of the charges, the seriousness of the allegations, the accused’s previous criminal history and the likelihood of the accused committing a serious offence in the future. In some cases, the Crown may determine that the charges against the accused are too serious for diversion.

If you are Granted Mental Health Diversion, will you go to a Mental Health Facility?

Being granted mental health diversion does not mean the accused will be institutionalized. It simply means that the Crown believes the matter is best dealt with in a manner less formal than the typical court system and that the accused should be monitored by a doctor and receive treatment.

When an accused is granted mental health diversion, they will generally be ordered to see a doctor regularly for treatment. The idea is that if the accused gets treatment for their underlying mental health issues, they will be less likely to reoffend in the future. In the vast majority of cases, treatment is done in the community, not in an in-patient mental health institution.

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