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Psychiatrists relieved with delay for forced rehab

By Tara Clow May 8, 2024 | 12:42 PM

The province has delayed plans for forced treatment of those with severe substance use disorders.

Despite concerns from the New Brunswick Psychiatrists Association, the Higgs government was expected to introduce legislation this spring.

President Dr. Mylène Poirier was relieved with the postponement and hopes the province will do more consultation, and include the New Brunswick Psychiatrists Association by keeping them informed.

The Association is concerned about how forced treatment implementation would directly impact New Brunswick’s health care.

“Serious addictions and homelessness are growing problems across Canada that require significant planning, adequate resources, compassion, and motivation from governments, mental health professionals, the public, and all major stakeholders. But, there is strong research to suggest that this path will not solve these complex problems,” Poirier says.

Some of the reasons for objecting forced treatment for substance use disorders include:

  • Available peer-reviewed research suggests that forced detoxification does not improve patient
    care or reduce drug consumption.
  • Evidence also demonstrates an increased risk of overdose following a period of involuntary
    detoxification, with a greater risk of complications or mortality following discharge.
  • This type of intervention is also not compatible with ethical medical practice, as it amounts to forced treatment of individuals capable of making their own decisions

The Association agrees that substance use disorders are multifaceted and challenging issues, and they agree that the measures currently in place do not adequately address this increasingly complex problem.  They think these issues require collaboration with many stakeholders, including governments, healthcare professionals, community organizations, and those with lived experience.

Poirier says other interventions can help produce results, instead of a forced intervention. Those include:

  • Facilitating access to voluntary mental health and drug addiction care within local communities
  • Facilitating access to housing for the homeless population and/or those suffering from
    substance use disorders by prioritizing a “Housing First” approach in places that tolerate consumption to avoid evictions.
  • Have public special care homes for more severe and refractory cases, where staff are trained in the management of complex cases in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Development.
  • Increase mental health and addiction services in provincial correctional centres
  • Expand the scope of the Supervised Community Mental Health Care Plan to include mandated supervised housing as an integral part of treatment for individuals with severe and chronic mental illness who are incapable of making informed decisions for themselves, without the need for a separate procedure through Adult Protective Services or the Supported Decision Making and Representation Act.
  • Develop appropriate work programs that allow the individual to regain self-esteem and allow them to resume an active role in the community.
  • Establish a Mental Health Court Program in the province that will offer a diversion program geared towards participation in a recovery program and obtaining care rather than incarceration. This is with the aim of reducing the risks of repeat offences and unclogging the Court.