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HomeAJTP 2023 Current Issues Conference

Evaluating a Mental Health Screening Process in a Youth Criminal Court

Researchers discuss preliminary results of evaluations of two court programs for youth with mental health needs: a systematic mental health screening program and a youth mental health court. They identify program strengths and recommend practices that support youths’ access to services to address their needs. 

Speaker Bios

 Dr. Michele Peterson-Badali

Michele Peterson-Badali is a professor in the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. She has taught in the areas of professional psychology ethics, child psychological assessment, and children, psychology and the law. Her research examines issues in youth criminal justice psychology. Current projects focus on effective assessment and intervention for justice system-involved youth mental health. In addition to scholarly dissemination of her work, Dr. Peterson-Badali is actively engaged in bringing her research findings into the spheres of public policy and practice; she has conducted research and provided policy consultation for Canada's Department of Justice, provided consultation and training to various youth courts and probation offices, and served as an expert witness for the Ontario Advocate for Children and Youth. (131 words)

Aminah Chambers

Aminah Chambers is a PhD candidate in the Youth Justice Lab under the supervision of Dr. Michele Peterson-Badali at the University of Toronto/OISE. Her research interests are in the area of adolescent mental health and improving outcomes for justice-involved youth. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, her research focuses on examining court processes for youth and their families who encounter the justice system, and ways that courts can identify and address the complex needs of youth with mental health issues. She is also interested in identifying factors that contribute to justice system outcome disparities for marginalized youth, and identifying risk and strength factors for criminal offending in justice-involved girls and women.

Treatment for incarcerated populations: Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT)

Kate Johnson, Director, Clinical Services, Canadian Addiction Treatment Centres

An expert discusses Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) Ontarians who have experienced incarceration are at a disproportionately higher risk of death by opioid toxicity than the general population. Individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) released directly from court following incarceration potentially face even greater risks.


OAT is often continued or initiated when an offender with OUD is incarcerated in a provincial facility. For those who have been on OAT, release to the community creates challenges to the continuity of this essential medical treatment which is necessary to prevent overdose and return to both the use of illicit substances and criminal activity. This is especially challenging for those who are released directly from court since they do not have adequate advance planning to ensure the continuity of care of their OAT. 

Other barriers can include:

  • OAT providers’ inability to obtain accurate information from the correctional center to safely continue treatment
  • Lack of government-approved identification or Health Card which is required to access medical services and initiate/continue treatment in the community
  • Lack of funds or drug plan coverage (public drug plan or other) to cover the costs of OAT medication

Access and linkage to low-barrier, evidence-based treatment for OUD must be integrated into the criminal justice system—both during incarceration and immediately upon release—to prevent unnecessary loss of life, protect local communities and reduce recidivism in Ontario. 

Speaker Bio

Kate Johnson

Director of Clinical Services, Canadian Addiction Treatment Centres (CATC)

Kate spent her early career working in the federal correctional system. From there, she spent time working with youth involved in the criminal justice system. After seeing the link between traumatic experiences, mental health, substance use and incarceration, Kate retrained to become an addiction counselor, primarily working in Eastern Ontario.

Kate joined Canadian Addiction Treatment Centres in 2015 in a leadership role and moved to the Director position in 2018. She is responsible for clinical services and operations in 74 Treatment Centres in the Province of Ontario that deliver addiction care to nearly 15,000 patients a month. Driven by a personal passion for improving access to high-quality, cost-effective opioid agonist treatment, particularly in rural communities, Kate is committed to changing the trajectory of the opioid/fentanyl epidemic in Canada.

The Impact of Trauma on the lives of the Black Male Adolescent


Research has shown that many Black male adolescent experience various kinds of extreme traumas which impede their development and changes the way they perceive their world. In fact, they do not get the privilege of enjoying their adolescent years because they face many systemic barriers.


This one-hour, oral presentation aided by using PowerPoint slides, will define ‘normal’ adolescence vs. a trauma-induced one, some of the root causes of trauma, an understanding of its effect on behaviours, and share examples of systems wherein trauma is intensified for Black Adolescents.


A few takeaways on how we can collaborate across systems to become more trauma-informed because, without an understanding of trauma and its impact on the Black male youth, their responses will be misunderstood and mislabeled.

Speaker Bio


Norma Fay Nicholson, MA, BA, Retired RN

Norma is a four-time published author, speaker, educator, youth, and adult mental health advocate. Ms. Nicholson is a retired RN with a BA in Sociology and Psychology and an MA in Adult Education.

As a recognized public speaker, she addresses the needs of vulnerable and at-risk teens and their families. With over 30 years of public service experience, she has spent most of her time motivating and mentoring families and youth to transform their mindsets to see the world in positive ways.

Due to her vibrant voice and catalyst for community growth, she has been recognized on many occasions for her mentorship and advocacy. Most recently as one of the 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women 2018. (100ABC).


She is highly engaged in community volunteer work such as the immediate past Chair of the Region of Peel Police Services Board and past President of the Alzheimer Society of Peel. She is presently a member of the Mississauga Arts Council, Secretary of the Board of Directors, St. Luke’s Seniors Residence, an Advisory to the Free For All Foundation Board and an ardent volunteer at Associated Youth Services of Peel.



Young Lives on the Line, You can make a difference

Walking Miles in Sensible Shoes, A nurse looks back at her vocation

Codi’s Adventures, Canada my ‘furever’ home (2 series)

Experiences of lived experience inclusion and participation in wellness courts

Aileen McGinty and guests.

This session will provide an introduction to the inclusion and participation of those with lived experience in wellness courts, as well as a discussion of the advantages and challenges of same and proposed possible routes for the future. The session will consist of video clips and interviews with those who have participated in this way. Topics covered will include service development and delivery, co-production (including research) and training and education. Questions and discussion will be welcome.

Learning objectives: It is hoped that following the session, attendees will have a better understanding of some of the issues around lived experience inclusion and participation, as well as being stimulated to consider how they might incorporate meaningful and positive lived experience into their own work.

Speaker Bio

Aileen McGinty

Aileen is a Senior Crown Attorney working with the Dartmouth Wellness Court in Nova Scotia. She trained as both a lawyer and a psychologist in the UK and spent three years working in acute psychiatry.

She has been involved in mental health advocacy for over twenty years. She is currently Chair of the National Council for Persons with Lived Experience and sits on the National Board of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

 Her work in the mental health field has led to many speaking opportunities around the world including Australia and New Zealand. She also teaches in the Criminology Department at Saint Mary's University in Halifax.

Drug Treatment Court Program: Evolution and Evaluation

Laura Day and Sarah Pichut

Experts from the Toronto Drug Treatment Court (TDTC) program explain how the TDTC has been working through an evolutionary process to redefine success.  With the clear understanding that Substance Use is a symptom which is highly influenced by factors such as social determinants of health, the TDTC has sought to “re-define success”, recognizing the role that factors such as poverty, stigma/discrimination, trauma, brain injuries and homelessness pay as contributing factors. The TDTC program has sought to respond to the evidence regarding substance use, treatment and trauma, the increasing complexities that our client population bring to the program, the increasingly dangerous drug supply, and emerging harm reduction strategies while continuing to serve clients who are deemed to be high risk and high needs.  This process has produced both minor and significant changes in what experts consider to be a malleable, client-centered environment and culture.

The main learning objectives of this presentation are:                                                                                                

Learn about the changes made, reasons for the changes and changes yet to come

Learn about the new evaluation framework and early results

Speaker Bios

Laura Day

Laura Day has been a social worker at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health for 13 years. She has spent most of her career advocating for alternatives to incarceration for people with mental health and addictions in the Toronto Drug Treatment Court. She runs a specialized stream for women in the Toronto Drug Treatment Court. She is a passionate believer in the principles of harm reduction. She holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto. 

Sarah Pichut

Sarah Pichut has worked as a Counselor/Therapist at CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) for nearly 2 decades in a variety of programs. For the past 4 years she has been with Toronto’s DTC (Drug Treatment Court), which feels like home. As a Registered Social Worker and Registered Psychotherapist, Sarah is passionate about supporting people through their struggles with addiction, mental health, and the justice system, with the understanding that a trauma-informed, client-centered, holistic approach is necessary to help this population meet their goals and define success.

Treatment Strategies for Individuals at a high risk of committing a violent sexual offence

An Expert discusses the Guiding Good Choices (GCC) project. GCC adopts treatment strategies aimed at preventing individuals at risk of harming others sexually in an effort to reduce the risk of offending.

GCC aims to provide a safe, non-judgmental place for participants to talk openly about struggles related to sexual thoughts, attitudes, or behaviours that are harmful to others or themselves; provide an opportunity for participants to share their sexual thoughts and challenges and discuss the potential impact of acting on those thoughts.

GCC aims to help the GGC participant with a better understanding of their harmful behaviours, motivations, trends, and patterns and seeks to equip them with strategies to help them overcome these tendencies thus keeping themselves and others safe. The ultimate objective is to connect the individuals to clinical/therapeutic supports and to help participants identify and understand their thinking and behaviour patterns and address beliefs that underlie unhealthy and harmful patterns of thinking and behaviour.

Speaker Bio

Carol O'Neil

Carol is a Restorative Justice Program Associate with Mennonite Central Committee for over 5 years working with their CoSA (Circle of Support and Accountability for Individuals who have harmed sexually) and FCRI (Faith Community Reintegration Initiative for women just released from incarceration). She is married to Mark, and they have 2 children, and 5 grandchildren. She is excited about a new project she has developed entitled Guiding Good Choices (GGC). The goal of the project is to prevent individuals at risk of harming others sexually to get them help before they do – in doing so we prevent the cost and trauma of the growing number of criminal offences related to sexual assault and less victims.