Federal offenders to receive mental health services through innovative

TORONTO, Feb. 18 /CNW/ - A bold new initiative soon to be implemented in federal prisons in Ontario will help to address the treatment needs for federal offenders with mental health issues.

The prison population has significantly higher rates of mental illness than the general population of the country, yet it can be challenging to recruit and retain the psychiatric specialists in Ontario.

But soon, federally incarcerated offenders will be able to obtain mental health care through the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN). Inmates will be able go to a private room at the prison where they will be connected by video to a psychiatrist located outside the facility. The specialist will provide care and treatment just as though the two are sitting in the same room together.

"We are pleased to be able to provide this service for the Correctional Service of Canada. We have a lot of experience that shows telemedicine is well suited for psychiatric care and commend CSC for its innovation in applying it to provide mental health care to the prison population in Canada," says Dr. Ed Brown, CEO of the Ontario Telemedicine Network.

While other telemedicine services have recently been introduced inside Ontario's federal prisons, this will be the first time psychiatric services will be provided to inmates via secure, two-way video conference capability.

"Thanks to OTN, we have been able to provide a greater number of health services onsite which improves access and also reduces the costs," says Ian Irving, Regional Manager, Clinical Services, Correctional Service of Canada, Ontario. "Expanding the program to include mental health is the next logical step in providing efficient, quality health care delivery to the federal offender population."

There is an increasing prevalence of mental illness within the Canadian corrections system. In 2008, nearly a quarter of female offenders and 13 per cent of male offenders were identified as having a mental health disorder at intake. That represents an increase of 85 per cent and 86 per cent respectively since 1997.

The suicide rate among federally incarcerated inmates is higher than that of the general Canadian population. Studies show that more than 90 per cent of suicide victims have a diagnosable psychiatric illness.

"Providing offenders with mental health issues access to psychiatric specialists contributes to their rehabilitation and safe, successful reintegration into the community. That's the ultimate goal," says Irving.

There are other payoffs with this model of care too. Onsite health care consultations have the potential to reduce the requirement to transport offenders into the community, thereby reducing the costs to taxpayers.

The Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) is an independent not-for-profit organization funded by the Government of Ontario. One of the largest telemedicine networks in world, OTN is a secure, encrypted video network that helps deliver clinical care and professional education among health care providers and patients.

SOURCE Ontario Telemedicine Network

For further information: For further information: or to arrange an interview, please contact: Sara Cauchon, (416) 777-0368, sara@prpost.ca

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