Jails across Canada are seeing a rise in the number of individuals who arrive with either substance abuse, mental illness, or both. These two issues often go hand in hand, with someone having a mental illness and engaging in substance abuse. This may be an attempt to self medicate, and this type of case requires a dual diagnosis. Both the mental illness and the substance abuse problem need to be accurately identified, diagnosed, and treated in order for the individual to recover completely. Many jails do not have the resources or the professionals available to treat these individuals, especially those situated in more remote areas and those that operate on a shoestring budget. Where does this leave the prisoners who have these problems? Often without the necessary treatment while they are incarcerated.
In the USA mental illness and substance abuse are seen in large numbers by the jails across the country, and many blame the closure of inpatient mental hospitals for this problem. Should Canada operate separate facilities in order to provide treatment to criminals who suffer from both substance abuse and mental illness? This idea has merit but it is not typically cost effective in areas except the largest cities in Canada, and caution would need to be used to make sure that the appropriate security measures were in place to protect the public. Diversion programs through the courts are also another option when someone is in legal trouble because of either substance abuse or mental illness and they must appear in court.