By: Jimmy Yan (2014)
Project and Information Officer
Access Pro Bono Society of BC
CELS Research Assistant
On July 4th, 2014 Access Pro Bono Society of BC (“Access Pro Bono”) , with support from the BC Mental Health Review Board and the Community Legal Assistance Society (“CLAS”), launched its Mental Health Program to help people contest their involuntary detainment under the BC Mental Health Act. As a new form of medical and legal collaboration, the Program helps promote procedure justice to the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and devastated clients.
When CLAS is not able to represent these individuals, they are referred to Access Pro Bono. Volunteer lawyers or law students from the Mental Health Program then provide free legal representation to avoid patients being unrepresented at their hearings. Access Pro Bono’s Mental Health Program has made meaningful progress in the medical legal partnership area. Since early July, Access Pro Bono has received over 50 referrals and managed to find legal representatives for most of cases. Two referred clients in the first week got decertified before their hearing sessions once the case manager of the mental health facility found out the involvement of Access Pro Bono lawyers.
Collaboration between medical and legal services has been a goal of many professionals and institutions. Boston, Massachusetts, pioneered the medical and legal partnership in North America. The Boston model tries to facilitate the medical and legal service through lawyers, hospitals, medical doctors, public health professionals, and community centres; however, the real progress turns out to be slow because it involves many parties and requires lots of efforts to deal with their conflicts of interest. In recent years, Connecticut and North Carolina have developed their own models of medical and legal collaboration working directly with local patient care centres rather than hospitals. The supervising lawyer of the medical legal service program from the University of North Carolina was even invited, in May 2014, as a panel speaker to the American Bar Association’s annual Equal Justice Conference to share her successful experience.
Mental illness actually affects many of us. According to the BC Schizophrenia Society (2014), schizophrenia as an illness “touches the lives of 1 in 100; that’s more than 40,000 British Columbians, and about 290,000 people in Canada” (para.1). However, oftentimes the general public simply consider all the mentally ill as crazy persons. Furthermore, the public do not know mental disorder actually costs Canadian society billions of dollars every year “due to hospitalization, disability payments, welfare payments, and lost wages” (para.5). It is time now for us to pay more attention on mental health issues.
当社区法律协助社团无法处理那些在非自愿状况下遭到精神保健中心关押的客户的时候, 他们就会被转介给卑诗公益法律服务社团，然后精神保健服务项目团队的专业律师和法学生会免费替患者出席裁判所的聆讯, 避免他们面临无律师代理的处境。卑诗公益法律服务社团的精神保健服务项目在医疗和法律合作领域做出了有意义的探索 。 自7月启动以来,卑诗公益法律服务社团就获得了超过50个案例的转介并为绝大多数患者成功的找到了律师。在第一周转介的两个案例中，当精神保健中心的案例管理员发现有卑诗公益法律服务社团的律师参加，就在聆讯前直接将关押的病人取消了认证。
医疗和法律服务的协作一直以来都是很多专业人员和机构的愿望。马萨诸塞州的波士顿在北美最早开启这种合作模式服务。波士顿模式试图协同律师，医院，医生，公共健康专业人员，以及社区中心一起提供法律医疗服务, 但这种模式在实际进展上较为缓慢因为协调不同的参与方和相应的利益冲突需要投入大量的力量和资源。 近年来，北卡罗莱纳州以及康尼迪科州都纷纷开拓了自己的医疗法律合作服务，选择同病患的康复中心而非医院进行合作来帮助有需要的病患。 北卡罗莱纳州大学的医疗法律服务项目的负责律师还被美国律师协会邀请到2014年5月的公平正义年会做为主讲之一分享成功经验。
精神健康其实影响着许多人。根据卑诗思觉失调症协会数据(2014),每 100 人中间就可能有 1 人患有思觉失调症, 目前有 4 万卑诗 省民患有思觉失调症,加拿大则有约 29 万患者。然而公众很多时候都简单的将精神疾病的患者等同于疯子。公众更不知道加拿大每年用于精神疾病相关的医院,残疾,社会福利,薪资损失等开支告到数十亿加元。 现在到了我们关心精神健康问题的时候了。