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Winnipeg Mental Health Court

The Winnipeg Mental Health Court (MHC) is a joint initiative of Manitoba Justice and Shared Health’s Forensic Assertive Community Treatment Team (FACT)that diverts adults from the traditional court system when their criminal involvement is a direct result of their mental illness.

Mental Health Courts in Canada and in other countries result in reduced recidivism and shorter lengths of stay in jails and hospitals. More importantly, participants experience improved quality of life outcomes such as: reduced homelessness, recovery from substance use disorders, and increased social functioning as part of their road towards recovery. Supports under the Winnipeg Mental Health Court program include:

  • A specialized court docket, which employs a problem solving approach to court proceedings rather than the more traditional court procedures.
  • Regular status reviews with the Judge at which time the participant’s progress is reviewed and service plans are revised accordingly.
  • Comprehensive community mental health treatment and support services delivered by the Forensic Assertive Community Treatment Team, a multidisciplinary team of mental health professionals.

How Does the Winnipeg Mental Court Work?

If, during the process of entering the criminal justice system, it becomes apparent that a person’s mental health is the primary cause for their criminal involvement and they would benefit from a different approach, their matter can be diverted to the Mental Health Court program. Potential program participants may be identified by police, court or corrections staff or counsel. Service providers and families may also identify potential participant through their defense counsel.

Once a person is identified as a potential program participant, an application from the defense lawyer is submitted to the Crown for consideration. The Crown will review the criminal file and, in discussion with the applicant’s defence lawyer, will decide if a request will be made to the FACT team for assessment. Factors such as: diagnosis, type of criminal charge, and willingness to participate are taken into consideration for participant acceptance to the program. The court process and program service processes operate together as an integrated team.

Once accepted, participants must sign an agreement to participate in the program and the FACT Team will then conduct a comprehesive assessment. Based on this assessment, and in conjunction with the court and the participant, a service plan will be developed that ensures participants have access to the appropriate treatment, services and supports to aid their road to recovery. This may include; coordinating access to housing, addressing medical needs, assistance seeking education and employment, support in addressing family issues,and coaching and encouraging participants to lead more stable and satisfying lives.

Who is eligible for Winnipeg Mental Health Court?

Those diagnosed with a Severe and Persistent Mental Illness (SPMI) such as schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder and have committed certain criminal offences may be eligible. Serious violent offences, offences against children, sexual offences, hate offences, and offences motivated by profit or gang activity are generally excluded. Eligibility for the Mental Health Court remains at the discretion of the Crown. At this time, Mental Health Court is available only in Winnipeg.

How do people apply for Winnipeg Mental Health Court?

Applications for the Mental Health Court program are available on the Manitoba Courts website and at the Law Courts Building at 408 York Avenue, Winnipeg. Applicants should have their lawyers assist them in filling out the application forms. The Mental Health Court Crown Attorneys will then review the forms and police reports to determine if applicants meet program criteria.

How long does it take to graduate from Winnipeg Mental Health Court?

Participants remain accountable to the Mental Health Court until court mandated expectations are completed generally within 6 months to 2 years. During that time, as the participant’s mental health stabilizes, support services will become less intensive and court appearances may be required less often.

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