Province will join review of CAMH policies after high-profile disappearances

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Province will join review of CAMH policies after high-profile disappearances


The Ontario government will participate in an ongoing review into the privileges granted to forensic patients at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health — but it is not contemplating launching its own examination.

Christine Elliott, Ontario’s Minister of Health, said Tuesday that the province is will participate directly in the external review, announced by CAMH’s president and CEO last month, following the high-profile flight of a forensic patient from its facility last month.

“The recommendations from this review will provide expert advice on how to improve hospital protocols and will protect patients and the community,” Elliot said in a statement Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Elliot said an independent provincial review — as called for by Mayor John Tory — “is not an option that we’re currently considering.”

Tory requested last month that the province launch an independent review into the case of Zhebin Cong, a 48-year-old CAMH patient who on July 3 boarded an international flight while out on an unaccompanied public pass.

Cong killed his roommate with a meat cleaver in 2014 and was later found not criminally responsible for second-degree murder. He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and has been a patient at CAMH ever since; it’s believed he travelled back to China but officials have not confirmed where he may have fled.

In an email Tuesday, a spokesperson for Tory reiterated the mayor’s call for an independent review, saying that while Tory supports the ongoing reviews — launched by Toronto police and CAMH — he still supports an independent probe.

“This could simply take the form of having one individual review all of the reports and recommendations expected to be forthcoming to make sure every aspect has been covered given the number of organizations involved,” Tory said in a statement.

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In a July 18 letter to Sylvia Jones, Ontario’s Solicitor General, Tory said a provincial review would examine communication with police and actions taken by officers; how Cong may have gotten access to a passport; why airport security did not detect Cong’s status and more.

Both CAMH and Toronto police were blasted last month for their handling of Cong’s disappearance, including an 11-day delay in communicating to the public that Cong had gone missing.

Since Cong’s disappearance, other patients have gone missing from the facility, including Ahmed Sualim on July 22, followed by Anthony Murdock on July 30. Both men, who have since been found, have lengthy criminal histories.

Late last month, CAMH president Dr. Catherine Zahn announced the hospital would launch an external review of its procedures around the privileges it grants to forensic patients. The results of the review, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, will be public.

Toronto police chief Mark Saunders announced his service launched an internal review of how they handled Cong’s case.

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With Star files

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Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at wgillis@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis





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