For the record: Judge Sandhu on emergency mental-health services

Judge Fred Sandhu

I’m a big fan of provincial court Judge Fred Sandhu.

While I don’t always agree with every decision he makes, I respect his willingness to put his thoughts on the record.

Tuesday was no different. But instead of taking aim at Manitoba’s booze problem, he fired on the lack of emergency mental-health services available to people.

His long tirade came during a sentencing hearing for John Favell, a clinically depressed, alcoholic, criminal who is now serving his second federal bit for robberies.

You can read my story here to get the flavour of what Favell did and the help he sought — but was denied — before he started drinking and robbing again.

I thought it was important — to put the judge’s full comments on the record, and I present it verbatim (for the most part) below. Sandhu is largely speaking directly to him.

I’ve said this many times before. I don’t see why people who feel they’re alcoholic can’t manage their lives either by drugs or alcohol and they go into a medical facility and ask for medical help, why can’t they get it right away?

I don’t understand that.

Because if you went into a hospital and said, ‘I’ve got cancer,’ … they’d give you treatment.

But apparently if you go in and you have a broken brain, you don’t get treatment.

I don’t understand that, because this could have been prevented.

All of this could have been prevented if they’d taken you, if there was a bed.

If they had more than 30 spaces at all the psychiatric hospitals in the city — that’s all they have, and they’re full all the time and people like you who walk in there and say, ‘I’m in a mental emergency,’ they won’t take you because your not a danger to yourself and you’re not a danger to others. Or they don’t think you are. So they don’t let you in.

Because there are people that are in these psychiatric beds, the ones that are clearly a danger to themselves or clearly a danger to others.

And people who are kind of maybe not a danger, well, ‘you’ll just have to walk home.’

Because you’re not horribly bad, just kind of mildly bad.

To me, it seems short sighted. You should have gone to that hospital, you should have gone for an assessment for seven days, stabilize you and out you go.

And then there wouldn’t be five victims out there.

And you wouldn’t be spending six years in jail at $100,000 a year.

You’re a half million dollar man already. And that it would have taken is a few thousand to get you some treatment.

It doesn’t make sense.

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