The Winnipeg Mental Health Court (MHC) is a weekly sitting of the Provincial Court of Manitoba, available only in Winnipeg at the present time. The MHC offers pre-sentence intensive services and supports to persons whose criminal involvement is a direct result of their mental illness. Services are provided by a Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) team which has been established within the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s (WRHA’s) Community Mental Health Program to work with MHC participants.
Persons who have been diagnosed with a severe and persistent mental disorder, such as schizophrenia or bipolar mood disorder, and committed certain criminal offences may be eligible for MHC. The MHC Crown Attorneys will review cases referred to them to determine if applicants meet the MHC criteria. Once accepted to Winnipeg MHC, the applicants must also fill out waiver forms so the FACT team can access their criminal and medical records to develop a responsive recovery plan.
The FACT team consists of a psychiatrist, a team leader, a multidisciplinary team of four service coordinators, and an administrative assistant. In addition to providing intensive support to MHC participants, the team members will report to the MHC Judge on a weekly basis. The MHC Crown(s) and Legal Aid and private bar counsel will also participate in case discussions as required.
The MHC process is expected to take between 18 and 24 months for each participant to complete. During that time, as participants’ mental health improves, case management will become less intensive and court appearances will be required less often.
Upon completion of the FACT recovery plan, either the Crowns will stay the charges or a community-based sentence will be ordered. Custodial sentences will not be made in the Mental Health Court.