Videoconferencing facility will be provided to federal offenders with mental health issues in prisons in Ontario. Inmates will be connected by video to a psychiatrist located outside the facility. The specialist will provide care and treatment in the same way as if the two were in the same room together. The service will be provided by the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN), one of the largest telemedicine networks in the world. The facility will give prisoners better access to mental health from within the prison. It also reduces the requirement to take people out of the prison, and that’s very positive from a number of perspectives as well because it reduces costs. Usually when you take a prisoner out you have to drive them out with some kind of armed guard and that takes several hours, and that certainly costs the prison system a bit of money.
While other telemedicine services have recently been introduced inside Ontario’s federal prisons, this will be the first time psychiatric services will be provided to inmates via two-way videoconferencing systems. In 2008, nearly a quarter of female offenders and 13 percent of male offenders in Canada were identified as having a mental health disorder at intake. That represents an increase of 85 per cent and 86 per cent respectively since 1997. The suicide rate among federally incarcerated inmates is higher than that of the general Canadian population. Studies show that more than 90 percent of suicide victims have a diagnosable psychiatric illness. Expanding the existing telemedicine services to include mental health is the next logical step in providing efficient, quality health care delivery to the federal offender population.