Mental Health Court team gives crash course to high-risk youth support team

As an organization, we are protectors. We serve Albertans, often the most vulnerable of us, and work tirelessly to protect their rights and ensure a fair legal process. One way we do that is by collaborating with others in the justice system, which is why the Legal Aid Alberta (LAA) Mental Health Court team recently gave a presentation at Edmonton Police Service headquarters.

On July 23 the LAA team was there to talk about the purpose, objectives, and intricacies of Mental Health Court (MHC), where the interests of the youngest and most vulnerable clients are represented. LAA plays a vital part in the MHC process, and ensures the court is able to function effectively.

MHC is a specialized criminal docket court, the first of its kind in Alberta, meant for people struggling with mental health issues and in conflict with the law.  This therapeutic court is unique in that it helps address the other complex issues these individuals are often dealing with, such as homelessness, addictions, trauma, and poverty. The LAA MHC team has been integral to its success.

The presentation was delivered to the Gap 19 team. Gap19 is a high-risk youth support team, made up of members from various agencies, including Community Corrections, the Edmonton Police Service, Child and Family Services and LAA’s very own Andrea Menard, manager of the Metis Youth Advocacy Program. These members get together regularly to collaborate and collectively strategize on how to best support the most at-risk youth in Edmonton.

Amna Qureshi and Sarah Lanceley, two designated Duty Counsel Lawyers, as well as Cyndi Brand, a Justice Navigator, attended on behalf of LAA. They spoke to Gap19 about how to best assist youth that have very recently become adults, who are in conflict with the law and struggling with mental health issues. The team explained how to navigate the court system, how to refer matters into MHC, what roles each of the team members play and the ultimate goals of the court.

The presentation was a great opportunity to connect with key stakeholders in the community, build relationships and talk about the vital role LAA plays in the justice system. 

In the photo, from left to right: Amna Qureshi, Staff Lawyer; Sarah Lanceley, Staff Lawyer; Andrea Menard, Manager of the Metis Youth Advocacy Program and Cyndi Brand, Justice Navigator. 

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