CAMH making changes after high-profile cases where patients walked away from facility

Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) says it will take a number of steps to stop patients from walking away from its Queen West facility.

The changes come after several high-profile cases last summer when three patients — including Zhebin Cong, a man found not criminally responsible in a deadly 2014 stabbing — walked away from the facility, prompting concern from the public.

Cong was able to leave the country, while another committed two robberies while being out of care.

Now, an expert review is recommending 12 steps to improve security and stop what CAMH calls forensic unauthorized leaves of absence, including:

  • Creating a secure perimeter around the facility to allow patients to get fresh air, without the need to get a pass. The Canadian Press reports that CAMH says this will be a fenced-in area on the campus.
  • Speeding up redevelopment of the campus (construction on new buildings is already underway).
  • Immediately creating a memorandum of understanding with Toronto police that sets out what information can be shared with the service and when.
  • Working with patients to ensure they understand the pass system (those passes are only issued, the report says, when clinical teams deem it safe.)
  • Work with the media to create better understanding of the forensic mental health system, something the report notes is “often poorly understood.”

Adalsteinn Brown, who chaired the review, said the recommendations should improve community safety and help patients complete their treatment.

CAMH has 192 inpatient beds as part of its forensic services programs. Some 90 per cent of the patients at CAMH who have come in contact with the criminal justice system have been found not criminally responsible for their actions.

About 80 per cent of those patients have a primary psychotic diagnosis such as schizophrenia or a serious mood disorder such as bipolar, the report says.


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