POLITICS

New Brunswick Liberals say they'll honour pledge to help mental health patients

05/27/2015 02:07 EDT | Updated 05/27/2016 05:59 EDT
FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's health minister says the provincial government will introduce community health orders for mental health patients before the end of its first mandate.

Victor Boudreau was reacting Wednesday to the recommendations of a coroner's jury this week in Saint John into the death of Serena Perry.

The 22-year-old woman was an involuntary patient at the Saint John Regional Hospital when she was found unresponsive in the hospital's amphitheatre on Feb. 14, 2012.

She had a hospital house coat wrapped around her neck.

The coroner's jury ruled that her death was a homicide, although no charges have ever been laid.

A number of witnesses at the coroner's inquest said Perry might not have been in hospital if the province had community treatment orders in place.

The orders force non-hospitalized psychiatric patients to take their medication and accept other treatment.

Boudreau said the use of community treatment orders was an election promise, but it will take some time to make sure they are done correctly.

"We need to consult and make sure that we're getting this right," Boudreau said Wednesday outside the legislature. "There are many stakeholders that want to have a say in this."

Boudreau said before the government launches more new initiatives, it has to get the province's finances in order.

A doctor who treated Perry said she did well when she was on medication in hospital. But within days of being released, Dr. Vinod Joshi said Perry would often stop taking her medication.

He said that many mental health patients refuse to take their medication once they are released from hospital.

The jury recommended that community treatment orders be adopted in New Brunswick, one of only two jurisdictions in the country - along with the Northwest Territories -without such orders.

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Horizon Health said there would have to be a significant increase in resources in order to enforce community treatment orders.

"We would actually need teams of mental health professionals working to support these clients in the community day and night," said Sue Haley, director of addiction and mental health services in the Saint John area for Horizon Health.

Stephen Horseman, the minister of public safety and minister of justice, said the government is reviewing all 11 recommendations of the coroner's jury.

"We don't want to see another mother have to go through this, so we have received the submissions and we're going to review those," Horseman said.