Mental Health Strategy

The Mental Health Strategy marks LAO’s long-term commitment to prioritizing, expanding and sustaining mental health rights and advocacy in Ontario’s legal system. It also enables legal aid lawyers to approach the intersecting legal issues of mental health clients in a more coordinated fashion.

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 experiences 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.

The strategy provides the steps needed to foster and protect rights, expand access, and sustain change within LAO and Ontario’s legal landscape, including:

  • Expanding financial eligibility to legal aid
  • Having legal services available in places where mental health clients can more easily access them (i.e. drop-in centres, psychiatric facilities or out-patient services)
  • Growing and strengthening expertise in mental health rights advocacy.