Mental Health Advocates Training Project
In January 2002, a settlement was reached in a complaint by H. Archibald Kaiser against the Executive Council of Nova Scotia. Part of the agreement involved the government making funds available to help people with mental disabilities gain access to legal education and other advocacy and justice services. The government agreed to provide $90,000 over three years to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, to be allocated as determined by the Commission, in consultation with the Nova Scotia Disabled Persons Commission, through a call for proposals from appropriate mental health associations and/or consumer advocacy groups for discrete projects to accomplish some or all of the following:
- Determine what services are presently available and how they could be better delivered to those most in need, and to ensure that there is no duplication of any existing services.
- Assist in providing public legal information on disability and equality issues.
- Develop a protocol with relevant stakeholders to ensure information is available in hospitals and other places confirming rights and services available to mental health consumers in contact with the medical or justice systems.
- Help the provincial government understand the needs of people with disabilities in law reform efforts.
- Engage in other activities to promote the equality of people with disabilities.
During the first phase of the project, Reach Nova Scotia, a charitable organization providing access to justice and human rights, received the first grant of $30,000 from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. They developed a framework for legal education and advocacy for mental-health consumers.
The second funding allocation was granted to the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia. Their project, "Legal Support Service Training Program," was conducted in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association. Building on the first phase, the result of the project was the development of an extensive resource manual for training mental health advocates. This manual includes seven comprehensive modules aimed at training people to be effective advocates for people with mental illness who may not be aware of their rights, and need help accessing services or addressing issues that infringe on their dignity and self-worth.
The third and final phase of the project was launched in May, 2009. The Canadian Mental Health Association has partnered with the Legal Information Society and the Dalhousie School of Nursing to develop a model to deliver the training modules that contribute to a provincial advocacy network, and to pilot test the training content.