TORONTO — A large mental health hospital in Toronto launched an internal review and worked to increase staffing levels Wednesday after police said a patient detained at the facility had managed to leave the country.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health said Zhebin Cong, who was found not criminally responsible for the death of his roommate, had been on an unaccompanied trip into the community on July 3 when he failed to return.
The hospital said it reported the 47-year-old’s disappearance later that day to police, who issued a notice asking for the public’s help in finding the man on Monday.
“We are going under a process of review to try and find answers to what has occurred here,” Dr. Sandy Simpson, CAMH’s chief of forensic psychiatry said in an interview.
“We will fully inquire into it to see whether we properly and fully understand the issues that this case gives rise to and see whether that means there’s anything in what we’re doing now that needs to be reset.”
CAMH increasing staffing
In addition to the internal review related to Cong’s disappearance — which CAMH called “rare” — the hospital said it was immediately reassessing all existing passes and privileges for patients, especially those who have unsupervised access to the community.
It said it was also immediately increasing clinical staffing levels to deliver enhanced assessments for those in its forensic units and adding security staff to those units.
“We will and we are ... ensuring that all the standards that we would expect to have occurred are occurring,” Simpson said. “Once we have the results of the review and once we’ve discussed it thoroughly then there may be changes in our procedures that will arise.”
Police working with international authorities
Toronto police said they were working with international law enforcement agencies to track down Cong, who records show is originally from China.
They said they investigated his disappearance for 11 days before deciding to ask for the public’s help. Police did not identify him as a CAMH patient in the missing-person notice and cited privacy reasons for not doing so. They also noted that CAMH told them Cong presented a low risk to public safety.
“The Toronto Police Service has now confirmed that Zhebin Cong has fled the country,” the force said in a statement Wednesday. “He boarded an international flight on the same day he was reported missing.”
Killed roommate with meat cleaver
Records from the Ontario Review Board (ORB) — which evaluates the status of anyone found not criminally responsible — show Cong killed his roommate with a meat cleaver in 2014 and was found non-criminally responsible on a charge of second-degree murder as a result of his mental illness.
Cong was an in-patient at the secured forensic unit of CAMH and deals with schizophrenia, the records show.
He was granted a pass to the community by medical officials, which allowed him to leave the hospital for a fixed purpose on the condition that he return at a fixed time, the board documents show.
‘A significant threat’: board decision
The board, in its last decision on Cong issued in April, found he continued to pose a significant threat to public safety. It also found his condition had slightly improved with ongoing anti-psychotic medication, but that he did not fully understand his mental illness, its symptoms and his risk of relapse and violence.
Board records show Cong’s history with mental illness can be traced back to 2012, when he was hospitalized after a suicide attempt. The board said he had no criminal record before the 2014 killing of his roommate.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said Cong’s situation had raised many questions.
“This case is very troubling,” he said in statement. “I’m confident that CAMH and all authorities involved are working to determine exactly what happened, will let us know as much as they can when they find out, and will make any changes necessary to make sure this situation is never repeated.”
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