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Developmentally delayed addict may be eligible for help, court hears

Feb 29 2012

A developmentally delayed woman who spent 200 days in jail last year may be eligible for a referral to the Provincial Assessment Centre, the Victoria Integrated Court heard Tuesday.

Defence lawyer Jesse Stamm said he may find out in a month if his client Barbree Elliott can undergo a comprehensive 90-day psychiatric assessment at the Community Living B.C. assessment centre, which provides mental health services for people with development disabilities, mental illness or behaviour issues.

In January, Stamm made a public plea to the provincial government, the Vancouver Island Health Authority and CLBC to build a facility to look after vulnerable, marginalized people such as his client.

Elliott, 29, has the cognitive ability of a five- to seven-year-old child. She suffers from bipolar disorder and is also a drug addict and a sex-trade worker.

Reports presented to the court suggest that she needs at least continuous supervision and that locked confinement is probably the only way to keep her safe.

"We want to investigation her deterioration," Stamm said. "Her decline has been dramatic over the last two years. We want to see if it can be treated with medication or if Barbree is suffering from anything organic."

Representatives of CLBC, VIHA and Forensic Psychiatric Services have discussed whether it is appropriate to fast-track Elliott up a 50-month waiting list for the semi-secure Seven Oaks mental health facility in Saanich.

"The long-term plan is to have her live at Seven Oaks," Stamm said. "The short-term plan is to refer her to the downtown [Assertive Community Treatment] team, another venue of support."

The Assertive Community Treatment team is a mental health program serving clients with serious, complex mental illnesses who have significant functional impairments. The mobile team, made up of mental health staff from a variety of disciplines, delivers service in the community.

In the meantime, CLBC provides the funding for her care. In 2009, CLBC provided 24-hour supervision for Elliott. In 2010, senior members of CLBC came to court and confirmed they are not able to provide a locked facility because it is a voluntary service. The 24-hour monitoring has been reduced to three to four hours of supervision a day at a fourplex apartment in Esquimalt.

Stamm continues to be concerned about Elliott's safety. She wears a GPS tracker around her neck so her caregivers can keep track of her, but Elliott has a hard time complying with the conditions of her probation. Last week, she appeared in court for breaching her probation for the 10th time.

"There's progress, but she's definitely still at risk."

Elliott, who pleaded to the court to keep her out of jail, will return to integrated court again on Tuesday.

"She gets very frustrated," Stamm said. "The whole process is very difficult for her. After 90 minutes this morning, she was visibly frustrated. She had a difficult time sitting in court waiting for her file to be called."

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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