Advocacy for Mentally Ill Youth

Historically, judges in Canada are far more reluctant to engage with the press than judges in the United States. So this story stands out not just for the content, but for the willingness of the Canadian judge to talk with the press. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recently had this article: “‘I’m trying to save his life’: Judge blasts Alberta government for mentally ill teen with nowhere to go.”

Here are some excerpts:

An exasperated youth court judge summoned members of the media to his courtroom on Thursday as he dealt with the case of a mentally ill, drug addicted boy who has nowhere to go. Judge Steve Lipton who has served on the youth court for two decades says he is “very, very angry” about the lack of services and supports available for the vulnerable boy. “As a last resort I asked the media to come here because of my frustration of what is going on right now in the child welfare system,” said Lipton. “I am trying to save his life.”

The 14-year-old Indigenous boy — whose identity is protected by a publication ban — faces charges of assault, failure to appear, mischief, and theft. The teen also suffers from paranoia and hallucinations, has been diagnosed with gonorrhoea and is heavily addicted to crystal meth and alcohol. He believes people are going to kill him and inject him with drugs when he’s sleeping. “He’s mentally ill and I’m keeping him in jail and he’s a kid,” said Lipton. “What is wrong with this picture?”

The first option for the boy was to send him to a secure treatment bed under the Child Youth and Family Enhancement Act. All of those beds are full in the southern Alberta region. Lipton said he even inquired about having the boy sent to a secure safe house for children and youth who need substance abuse treatment under the Protection for Children Abusing Drugs Act. Again, all of those beds are full. The judge noted the boy’s social worker has gone “above and beyond” her duties in her efforts to try and secure a placement for the teen.

“I’m angry, very angry. He deserves to be in a treatment facility not in jail.” Lipton said he is “sick and tired” of the government not prioritizing programs and services for vulnerable, at-risk youth.

The full article is online here.


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