[Hpn] Northern Ontario: 'Greyhound Therapy'

Graeme Bacque graeme.bacque@3web.net
Fri, 05 Jan 2001 21:49:00 -0500


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Transients, mentally ill sometimes hustled onto buses
By Dave Lammers - The Chronicle-Journal
January 04, 2001

It=92s not uncommon for transients and even the mentally ill to be shunted
between Northwestern Ontario communities on a passenger bus, says a
regional health official. Darlene Furlong said yesterday that Ignace and
other small communities aren=92t equipped to handle
people =97 including a man alleged to have interfered with the operation of=
 a
Greyhound bus in the Dec. 23 crash near Upsala =97 who turn up in those
communities.

Often a person is simply given a bus ticket to continue their journey, said
Furlong, director of Sunset Country Counselling Services, in Dryden. In
some cases, she noted, people have been
shipped back and forth between the same communities on a bus.
=93Sometimes these individuals are people who are in psychiatric crisis =97
they may be very ill,=94 Furlong said. The problem is small communities=
 don=92t
have the resources to handle such cases, including the provision of =93safe
and secure beds,=94 she said. =93It=92s a problem and it=92s going to get=
 worse,=94
Furlong said, pointing to the pending closure of Lakehead Psychiatric
Hospital in Thunder Bay.

Passengers say a man was put on the bus by police at Ignace around 7 p.m.
and, an hour later, interfered with the driver =97 causing the bus to veer
off the highway and roll down a steep embankment.
Most of the 32 passengers were injured in the crash, including one woman
who is in critical condition. Shaun Davis, 22, of Pictou, N.S., was ordered
to undergo a 30-day psychiatric assessment at a bail hearing in Thunder Bay
yesterday. Police won=92t comment on the incident because it is under
investigation by the province=92s Special
Investigations Unit (SIU). Furlong said staffing is an issue for police and
results in people being placed on the bus. The Dryden hospital-sponsored
counselling service has a satellite office in Ignace, but it=92s only open
during the day, she added.

=93We just simply don=92t have the resources,=94 Furlong said. There are=
 plans to
put in place mobile mental crisis workers west of Thunder Bay, she said.
The Canadian Mental Health Association in Thunder Bay also hopes to
introduce on-site personnel to communities on the North Shore, said CMHA
executive director Maurice Fortin. An outreach program was established in
Thunder Bay just over a year ago, he added. For now, North Shore
communities and those to
the west have to rely on crisis phone lines which, Fortin said, need more
publicity.  The number for the North Shore is 1-888-269-3100. In Thunder
Bay, the number is 346-8282. A separate emergency service for the
Kenora-Rainy River district is available at 1-866-888-8988.=20
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