The province doesn't see an issue, if police want to take a person into custody, if that person is deemed to be a danger to the public. A spokesman for the ministry of health, David Jensen, says provisions of the mental health act allow for a person to be detained against their will.

"Ontario’s Mental Health Act contains provisions that allow for persons to be detained against their will for the purpose of a psychiatric assessment when certain criteria are met," said Jensen in an email.

"For example, when a physician examines a person and believes that the person is threatening or attempting to cause bodily harm to himself, is behaving violently towards another person, or has shown a lack of competence to care for themselves, they may make an application authorizing the person to be taken to a psychiatric facility, and to be detained in the facility for up to 72 hours for the purpose of an assessment," Jensen added.

Officers at a recent public forum on crystal meth said they felt handcuffed by the legislation. They were supported by medical staff, who said it was practice to wait, until the intoxicant had worn off.

However, Jensen disagreed.

"The ministry is not aware of any policy that would apply to intoxicated persons being released pending the intoxicant wearing off. Patient admissions are clinical decisions which must be made by physicians directly involved in each case. Admission to a psychiatric facility may be refused where the immediate needs of the proposed patient are such that hospitalization is not urgent or necessary," he said.

"Where a person is alleged to have committed an offence under the Criminal Code, including endangering the lives, safety or health of the public, police may place the individual under arrest and take them into custody," Jensen noted.

During a panel discussion on the Kenora community's response to crystal meth, Dr. Andrew Affleck of Thunder Bay said it was possible to wait six to eight hours as an intoxicant -- such as illicit drugs or alcohol -- wore off in a patient, before a mental health assessment could be made.

Const. Bob Bernie of the Kenora OPP said officers felt they were in a tough place, because he felt they didn't have the power to arrest and hold a person in custody, under the province's Mental Health Act.

The issue could be an important one, as a coroner's inquest has been requested into the passing of Azraya Kokopenace. The Grassy Narrows member was in care and at Kenora's hospital, before she made the decision to leave. Searchers found her body in a wooded area across the hospital in 2016. A report from the province's chief coroner, who is looking into the deaths of 12 youth in care, is expected this summer.

Last week, in the Speech from the Throne, the new provincial government said it would help reduce restrictions on police.

For more information:

Intoxication gap frustrates doctors, cops

 

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