Health PEI must complete a court ordered health assessment by November 25 otherwise the provincial agency is looking at contempt of court charges, according to Judge Nancy Orr.
The judge ordered a mental health assessment for an accused in Georgetown Provincial Court in September.
The accused was facing charges related to impaired driving. At that time defense lawyer Hazen Brien said he had been having trouble getting anyone from the government agency to tell him, not only when, but even if an assessment could be done.
Fast forward to Georgetown Court on October 31 and Mr Brien informed the court no assessment had been carried out. This forced him to request a 30 day extension to the order.
In court, Mr Brien said the provincial agency informed him they are in the process of obtaining the services of a forensic psychiatrist needed to carry out court ordered mental health assessments.
“Government has an obligation to carry out a court order, otherwise they are looking at contempt of court charges,” Judge Orr said.
According to Judge Orr the criminal code states the order cannot be extended beyond 60 days. That leaves a deadline of November 25 for Health PEI to comply and have the report filed to the court by December 2.
Previously the province had a Memorandum of Understanding with the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Nova Scotia to carry out the assessments, but that changed in the spring when the facility could no longer provide the service citing an increase in demand for the service their own province.
In the interim several assessments were carried out by Doctor Heather Keizer, Chief Health PEI Mental Health and Addictions Services, and at least one was done through telehealth with a doctor in Ontario.
There was a psychiatrist on staff for a short time in PEI in late summer, but that doctor has since resigned.
Health PEI currently has one outstanding court-ordered mental health assessment. As referenced previously, the department acknowledges the requirement to have these assessments completed in a timely manner.
“We are very active in our efforts to secure resources to undertake an assessment when it is requested by the courts. Our efforts continue to ensure we meet that obligation,” a spokesperson from Health PEI said on Tuesday.