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Mental Health Strategy

The Strategy

The Mental Health Strategy marks the beginning of Legal Aid Ontario’s long-term commitment to prioritizing, expanding and sustaining mental health rights and advocacy in Ontario’s legal system.

The need for this Strategy is evident:

  • mental health and addiction needs permeate the justice system, corrections and the population eligible for legal aid services
  • LAO estimates that 1 in 3 clients who receive a legal aid certificate experience mental health or addiction issues; 1 in 2 clients at a legal aid clinic has a mental illness or an addiction
  • People with mental health issues are disproportionately criminalized, incarcerated, impoverished and under-housed – all of which are advocacy issues falling well within the legal aid mandate.

About the Mental Health Strategy

The Strategy provides a blueprint that outlines the concrete steps needed to both foster and protect rights, expand access and sustain change within LAO and across the broader legal landscape in Ontario in three key areas:

Expanding Rights

Promoting and protect the rights of clients with mental health disabilities…

  • by expanding legal coverage to ensure advocates are empowered to respond to the everyday legal needs of their clients
  • by expanding financial eligibility to legal aid
  • by expanding legal eligibility: many clients with mental health issues frequently face issues which have previously been ineligible for coverage, which can accumulate and lead to life-long legal problems

Expanding Access

Becoming accessible, accommodating and responsive to the needs and goals defined by clients…

  • by offering flexible representation, with flexible fee structures
  • by having legal services available in places where mental health clients can more easily access them—places like drop-in centres, psychiatric facilities, or out-patient services

Sustaining Change

Promoting lasting and holistic change in LAO and the justice system…

  • by growing and strengthening expertise in mental health rights advocacy
  • by introducing a mental health training program for LAO employees as well as private bar and legal clinics
  • by determining best practices

Read the Mental Health Strategy