Mental health strategy

About 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.

Working with partners in the justice and health care sectors, the Mental Health Strategy will enable legal aid lawyers to approach the intersecting legal issues of mental health clients in a more coordinated fashion.


Infographic: National addictions awareness week


Infographic: National addictions awareness week

  • 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental health or addiction problem in any given year.
  • Addiction is a treatable chronic health condition that affects individuals, families and communities.
  • 3 times to 4 times more likely for Canadians in the lowest income group to report poor to fair mental health than those in the highest income group.
  • Because of negative attitudes and stereotypes, people with addictions face challenges when renting a home.
  • $5 billion: Estimated annual cost in Ontario of alcohol-related health care, law enforcement, corrections, lost productivity, and other problems.
  • Individuals with a mental illness are much less likely to be employed.
  • Seemingly minor legal issues can trigger greater problems.
  • A history of police contact or offences creates a barrier to employment, supportive housing and treatment programs, travel, and education.
  • Drug treatment courts in Canada began as a response to large numbers of offenders being incarcerated for drug-related offences and continuing to re-offend due to underlying drug dependency.
  • December 1998: The first drug treatment court was established in Toronto, bringing together the criminal justice system and treatment services more effectively with drug-addicted offenders.

Legal Aid Ontario’s Mental Health Strategy

  • Expanded legal eligibility and coverage for people with mental health and addiction issues.
  • Lawyers can help with guardianship disputes, challenge health care decisions made by substitute decision makers, and step in to represent someone with no prior criminal record.
  • Direct referrals to local mental health and addiction services when calling LAO.
  • Expansion of face-to-face legal services at familiar community settings like community health centres, drop-ins and shelters.
  • Mental health training program to help specialists gain a better understanding of promoting, protecting and expanding patient rights.

Sources: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse; Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; Ontario Human Rights Commission; Department of Justice