Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario
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Patient's Detention 'Appalling'; Health Minister Should Explain Why Sarnia Doesn't Have Facilities, Judge Says

Posted By NEIL BOWEN

Frustrated by the "appalling" detention of a psychiatric patient, a judge invited Ontario's Health Minister George Smitherman to Sarnia on Friday to explain why the city lacks adequate facilities.

Kristy Martyn, 28, has been in a jail since Jan. 3 when she was arrested for assaulting a psychiatric nurse at Bluewater Health.

She was convicted on Jan. 24 but remains in custody awaiting sentencing.

The hospital won't take her back because of the assault, Justice Mark Hornblower was told.

"Maybe the minister of health could come next week to explain why there's no place for this woman except a jail cell," he said.

Earlier in the week, Justice Deborah Austin tried to get the woman into a facility for psychiatric assessment.

Austin, who convicted Martyn, said she suffers from a severe disorder that "cries out for intervention." She has violent tendencies and has been suicidal, the court heard Friday.

A probation officer had tried to find an appropriate facility to conduct an assessment and told the court that St. Thomas has no beds available, making the closest suitable facility in Thunder Bay.

Before she ordered the transfer, Austin wanted confirmation a psychiatrist was willing to help. Though Thunder Bay has a bed, a forensic psychiatrist isn't available until the week of Feb. 18, the court heard Friday.

"There was room at the inn but no innkeeper," Hornblower said.

Andrew Morrison, a spokesperson with the Health Ministry, said Friday that Ontario has 704 forensic psychiatric beds available today compared to 609 beds two years ago.

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"We're adding. We're building," he said.

A database has also been created to help courts locate available beds, he added.

Officials considered releasing Martyn on Friday, pending sentencing, if a suitable home could be found in the community. Prior to the assault, she was living in a seniors' home.

Defence lawyer Robert McFadden said he was trying to find accommodation through the Canadian Mental Health Association. If released, she'd be on the streets, he said.

Hornblower said it's "absurd" that no other place exists for the woman besides a jail or a seniors' residence.

If people read a newspaper account about such a situation in a Third World country there would be calls to increase foreign aid, he said. Meanwhile, Martyn is scheduled to return to court on Monday after another weekend in jail. Article ID# 896486

Reproduced from http://www.theobserver.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=896486.

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